Anxiety vs. Stress: What’s the Difference?


Okay, let’s be honest; we have all suffered stress and anxiety at some point in our lives.  Depending on their intensity, they may negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Even though anxiety and stress have many of the same physical and mental symptoms, such as discomfort, tension, headaches, high blood pressure, and trouble sleeping, their causes are very different.

It is important to figure out which one you have so you can come up with a good treatment plan and feel better. In most cases, stress is a reaction to an outside reason, such as a pressing financial issue or a fight with a close friend, which resolves over time. Since external variables contribute to stress, addressing them, head-on might be beneficial. There are many ways to deal with and lessen the effects of long-term, chronic anxiety, such as staying active, doing breathing exercises, getting enough rest, and making time to talk to other people.

An individual’s response to stress is unique and has an internal source. Anxiety is often marked by a “persistent feeling of dread or concern” even when there is no real danger. In contrast to stress, anxiety lingers even after a worry has subsided. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the U.S., and they can come from milder forms of anxiety. Generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are several categories of anxiety disorders (PTSD). People with anxiety and long-term stress might benefit from monitored care, and they should think about talking to a qualified mental health professional.

Anxiety vs. Stress

Understanding how to recognize and distinguish between stress and anxiety symptoms is crucial. It’s important to recognize the signs of anxiety as soon as they show up, and stress is a major cause of anxiety.

Most of the symptoms of stress and anxiety are the same, including:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Digestion problems
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Skeletal tension
  • Irritation or rage

Most people feel some level of tension and worry, which isn’t always a “bad” thing. After all, stress and anxiety can occasionally motivate us to complete challenging activities or engage in undesirable behavior (but really should not). But if you don’t do anything about it, stress and worry can hurt your daily life and your mental and physical health.

Please find out more about stress and anxiety, how they differ, and where to get help managing them.

How do anxiety and stress feel?

Stress and worry can cause many different physical and psychological symptoms.

Among the signs of stress are:

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Stomach problems, such as diarrhea and nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Angry or irritable mood
  • Headaches
  • Increased perspiration
  • Feeling overburdened
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Higher heart rate

Anxiety, in addition to stress, can also cause the following:

  • A sense of impending disaster
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Brain haze

Are anxiety and stress the same thing?

A distinct trigger is present, which is the main distinction between stress and anxiety. Stress is connected to a particular circumstance. Your focus will disappear after the problem resolves. Perhaps you are anxious about taking an impending exam. Or maybe you’re juggling three young children vying for your attention as you work from home. Each source of stress is different, and your stress starts to go away when the exam is over or when your kids go back to daycare.

However, this does not imply that stress is always transient. Chronic stress is a term that describes persistent stress brought on by ongoing strain, such as a demanding job or a family dispute. In contrast, anxiety sometimes lacks a clear-cut stressor. Other distinctions between the two include the following:

A lot of times, stress is external

Stress can be caused by negative thinking, perfectionism, or negative self-talk, but it is usually caused by an outside factor. A stress response is brought on by having too many obligations or a challenging project at work. On the other hand, anxiety is more internal. It depends on how you handle stress. If you take away those stresses and still feel pressured and overwhelmed, you probably have a concern.

An overreaction to a circumstance causes anxiety

Dealing with the arrangements for a loved one’s death is one of those situations that is unpleasant and would be for everyone. An excessive reaction, anxiety is more so. It may be anxiety instead of stress if the anxiety and distress you feel in a situation are unusual, too much, or far beyond what other people feel.

You might not be able to operate as a result of anxiety

The majority of stressful circumstances are challenging to handle but eventually manageable. Due to anxiety disorders, you may become utterly incapable of managing routine, everyday duties. A problem with anxiety can be upsetting if it keeps you from working or gives you a panic attack.

Feelings of dread and panic over hypothetical or imaginary events are anxiety symptoms

Stress is a reaction to an event or situation you experience. Anxiety might be entirely internal and not a response to anything happening in the outside world.   For example, if you have an anxiety disorder, you might feel dread, worry, and apprehension all the time, even if there is nothing coming up that should make you nervous.

An anxiety condition may exhibit specific symptoms

Some specific signs could mean you have an anxiety disorder or, at the very least, that your problem is more than just stress. One type of anxiety illness, panic disorder, is characterized by panic attacks. A social anxiety disorder may indicate high tension and anxiety in social situations.

Are they connected?

Although stress and anxiety are two distinct concepts, they are nonetheless interconnected. Stress can sometimes cause anxiety. For instance, if you’re anxious about a significant future relocation, you may notice that you start to feel worried about everything.

Am I experiencing anxiety or stress?

Not sure if your symptoms happen because of stress or anxiety? Take a step back and consider what is happening in your life at this time. What types of things worry you the most? Are there particular threats or occurrences?

Think about your living costs. Maybe you know how important it is to pay your rent on time, especially given how near the due date is. But at this time, you can not afford to do that. You will experience unease regarding your house for the upcoming few weeks. What if you damage something that you don’t own? What if the landlord decides to call you out for not making a payment when it is due? A few weeks later, you are at peace because you can pay your rent. Your anxiety in this situation happened because you stressed over your finances.

However, you may pay your rent while failing to detect a difference in your symptoms. You continue to worry about your finances and experience an unsettling nagging sensation of anxiety. Or perhaps you can overcome general anxiety about how to continue to be able to finance your property even though money was never an issue in the first place. The pressure would be off.

What causes stress?

Stress often results from being under strain, either physically or mentally. Under this strain, a significant life change, such as:

  • Relocating to a new house
  • Starting a new job or school
  • Enduring a disease or injury
  • Having a sick family member
  • Enduring a family member’s or friend’s death
  • Having a relationship
  • Having a child

However, stressors don’t have to impact your life drastically. People feel stress as a result of:

  • Have a lot of things to do this weekend
  • Executing a massive project
  • Reaching a deadline

How to reduce stress and anxiety

There are ways you can make stress and anxiety more tolerable because they are common occurrences. Pay heed to how you react in situations that cause tension and worry. You’ll be able to predict your response the next time this kind of scenario happens, which might make it less upsetting.

You may lessen the signs of stress and anxiety with certain lifestyle adjustments. Anyone can use these methods in conjunction with anxiety medication:

  • Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.
  • Proper sleep schedules
  • Proper exercise routines
  • Meditating
  • Reserving time for hobbies and pleasures
  • Keeping a stress journal
  • Breathing exercises
  • Communicating with loved ones


Humans naturally experience stress and anxiety when faced with dangerous or unsettling circumstances. They are a component of the fight-or-flight response, protecting us by getting our bodies ready to deal with danger.

Anxiety is the body’s response to stress, whereas stress is the body’s response to an external threat. People can control their stress and anxiety by using relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, exercise, and talking about their issues. People can become overwhelmed by worry and anxiety at times. When this occurs, it may result in anxiety disorders or persistent stress. Anyone who feels their daily life is affected by stress or worry may want to speak with a doctor.

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