What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

Often, stress and anxiety are used interchangeably. However, it should be known that there is a difference between the two. Both stress and anxiety affect us physically and mentally, but different people affect them differently. So how does one differentiate?

Experts say that while stress is mostly external, anxiety is “largely internal”.

“Although one can generate stress for oneself through negative self-talk, pessimistic attitudes, or a need for perfectionism, it usually stems from external factors. Too many responsibilities or a high-stakes work project usually can trigger a stress response. Anxiety, on the other hand, is largely internal and depends on how you react to stress,” says clinical psychologist, Narendra Kinger, founder, Talk to Me ‘ he said.

Often, even after the stress has been eliminated or removed, some individuals may still feel overwhelmed and/or distressed. “This distress is called anxiety. It is an exaggerated reaction or response to a situation. If the anxiety and discomfort you feel in a situation is unusual, excessive, or lasts longer than in other people, So it could be anxiety rather than stress,” Kinger said. indianexpress.com,

While mild anxiety can be vague and upsetting, severe anxiety can seriously affect day-to-day life (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

Anxiety is a psychological response to any change. “This response usually emanates from fear as a conditioned response. An excessive response to stress generates anxiety on an emotional level. Stress is necessary to maintain the spark of life, whereas anxiety consumes life.” ,” said Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, Head, Wellness and Wellbeing, Columbia Pacific Communities.


where tension is concerned, there is always a external stress Or a trigger – like a strict teacher, close to the deadline or a fight with a friend. With anxiety, there is no need to be stressful, it can be worrying about something that we think might happen in the future. “Often, what we worry about may not happen, but the thought of it happening makes us anxious and nervous,” says Dr Shireen Stephen (PhD), counseling psychologist, Mind Talk, Cadabams Hospitals, Bengaluru he said.

Dr. Stephen distinguishes between the two with an example. “Stress is the pressure you can put on to make a presentation in a team meeting or to finish a project on time or to finish studying for an exam. Worry is that the presentation may not be good or the project may not be good enough Or you may fail the test,” Dr. Stephen noted.

According to Dr. Stephen, another difference is duration – the stress lasts until the event is resolved but the anxiety can be persistent and persist for a very long time.


Symptoms of stress include mood swings, irritability or anger, feeling overwhelmed, dizziness, loneliness, nausea, and a general feeling of unhappiness. Symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, tension, nervousness and a general feeling of fear.

“Stress and anxiety both have common symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing and upset stomach or constipation, but as you can see, they differ in all other aspects,” Dr. Stephen elaborated. .

How do they appear?

Excessive worry or nervousness freezes us up and makes us unable to function, Kinger said. “Most stressful situations are difficult to get through, but ultimately manageable, while anxiety disorders prevent you from managing normal, everyday tasks,” Kinger said.

While mild anxiety can be vague and upsetting, severe anxiety can seriously affect day-to-day life. Panic attacks are characterized by panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. In addition, the high level of the stress And anxiety in social situations can indicate a social anxiety disorder, Kinger said.

One of the most common anxiety disorders is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, said Dr J Mayurnath Reddy, Consultant Psychiatrist, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad. “Identifying whether someone has generalized anxiety disorder requires attention to symptoms such as excessive, difficult-to-control anxiety that occurs over six months. Anxiety can move from subject to subject. It is,” said Dr Reddy.

Another type, according to Dr. Refi, is panic disorder, which is marked by sudden attacks of anxiety that can leave a person sweating, dizzy and gasping for air. Anxiety can also manifest as specific phobias (such as fear of flying) or social anxiety, which is marked by a pervasive fear of social situations.

how to cope?

Dr Reddy said physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are a good starting point to control these symptoms.

“If your stress or anxiety doesn’t respond to these management techniques, or if they are affecting your day-to-day functioning or mood, consider talking to a mental health professional who can help you understand that.” It can help explain what you’re experiencing and provide you with additional coping tools,” said Dr. Reddy. There are tasks, which include:

stress management: learn to manage the stress It can help to limit potential triggers. Organize upcoming pressures and deadlines, compile lists to make difficult tasks more manageable, and commit to taking time off from study or work

relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, prolonged baths, rest in the dark, and yoga interventions to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts: Make a list of negative thoughts that can cycle as a result of anxiety, with one next to it. And write a list that includes positive, credible thoughts to change them. Creating a mental image of successfully facing and overcoming a specific phobia can also be beneficial if the symptoms of anxiety are related to a specific cause, such as in a phobia.

support network: Talk to supportive people, including family members or friends. Support group services may be available locally and online.

work out: physical exertion may improve self image and release chemicals in the brain that trigger positive emotions

counselingPsychological counseling is a standard way of treating anxiety. This may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a combination of therapies.

Another possible treatment is exposure therapy, which involves confronting the anxiety trigger in a safe, controlled way to break the cycle of fear around the trigger, Dr. Reddy noted.

“Ultimately, with a set of appropriate mind-relaxing exercises, one can identify and differentiate the stressors and triggers that lead to anxiety. In addition, it is important to remember that stress and anxiety are part of our daily lives. are a natural and integral part of one’s existence, and experiencing them does not always indicate one’s presence. mental health disorder,” Kinger said.

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