What is the difference between stress and anxiety?


Stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably. However, you need to know that there is a difference between the two. Stress and anxiety affect us physically and psychologically, but different people do it differently. So how do you tell the difference?

Experts argue that while stress is mostly external in nature, anxiety is “mostly internal.”

“Although a person can create stress for themselves due to negative internal conversation, pessimistic attitudes or the need for perfectionism, it is usually caused by external factors. Too many responsibilities or a tough work project can usually trigger a stressful response. On the other hand, anxiety is largely internal and depends on how you respond to stressors, ”said clinical psychologist Narendra Kinger, founder of Talk To Me.

Often, even after stopping or eliminating stressors, some people may still feel overloaded and / or upset. “This stress is called anxiety. This is an exaggerated reaction or response to a given situation. If the anxiety and anxiety you experience in a given situation is unusual, excessive, or lasts much longer than most others, it may be more anxiety than stress, ”said Kinger. indianexpress.com

While mild anxiety can be vague and unsettling, serious anxiety can seriously affect daily life (Source: Getty / Thinkstock)

Anxiety is a psychological reaction to any change that occurs. “This reaction usually arises from fear as a conditioned reaction. An overwhelming stress response triggers emotional anxiety. Stress is necessary to keep the spark of life alive, while anxiety consumes life, ”said Dr. Kartyaini Mahadevan, Head of Health and Wellness at Columbia Pacific Communities.


When it comes to stress, there is always external stress factor or a trigger – like a strict teacher, an approaching deadline, or a fight with a friend. Anxiety does not have to be a stressor, it can be anxiety about what we think might happen in the future. “Very often, what we worry about may not even happen, but the thought of it causes us anxiety and panic,” said Dr. Shirin Stephen (Ph.D.), counseling psychologist, Mind Talk, Cadabams Hospital, Bangalore.

Dr. Stephen distinguishes between these two examples. “Stress is the pressure you might feel to speak at a team meeting, complete a project on time, or finish exam preparation. Worry is the worry that the presentation might fail, or that the project might not be good enough, or that you might fail an exam, ”said Dr. Stephen.

Another difference is duration, according to Dr. Stephen: stress lasts until the event resolves, but anxiety can be constant and last for a very long time.


Symptoms of stress include moodiness, irritability or anger, feelings of depression, dizziness, loneliness, nausea, and a general feeling of unhappiness. Symptoms of anxiety include feelings of anxiety, tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of fear.

“Both stress and anxiety have common symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, indigestion or constipation, but as you can see, they differ in all other aspects,” explained Dr. Stephen.

How do they manifest?

“Excessive worry or panic immobilizes us and we cannot function,” Kinger said. “Most stressful situations are difficult to overcome, but ultimately manageable, while anxiety disorders make it difficult for you to cope with normal daily tasks,” said Kinger.

While mild anxiety can be vague and unsettling, severe anxiety can seriously affect daily life. Panic attacks are common in panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. In addition, a high level of stress Anxiety in social situations can indicate social anxiety disorder, Kinger said.

“One of the most common anxiety disorders is generalized anxiety disorder,” said Dr. J. Mayurnat Reddy, consultant psychiatrist at Yashoda Hospital in Hyderabad. “To determine if someone has generalized anxiety disorder, symptoms such as excessive, difficult to control anxiety that occur most days over a six-month period need to be noted. Anxiety can move from topic to topic, ”said Dr. Reddy.

Another type is panic disorder, which is characterized by sudden bouts of anxiety that can cause a person to sweat, dizziness, and shortness of breath, according to Dr. Reffi. Anxiety can also manifest in the form of certain phobias (such as fear of flying) or social anxiety, which is characterized by an all-pervading fear of social situations.

How to deal with it?

Physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are good starting points to control these symptoms, according to Dr. Reddy.

“If your stress or anxiety is not responding to these management techniques, or if they affect your daily functioning or mood, consider talking to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you are experiencing and provide you with additional help. … tools, ”said Dr. Reddy. There are several things you can do to help a person cope with milder, more focused, or short-term anxiety disorders, Kinger said.

Stress management: Learning to manage stress can help limit possible triggers. Organize upcoming workloads and deadlines, make lists to make difficult tasks more manageable, and commit to taking time off from school or work

Relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, long baths, resting in the dark, and yoga to replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Make a list of negative thoughts that may be cyclically repeated as a result of anxiety, write another list next to it containing positive, believable thoughts on theirs. replacement. Creating a mental image of successfully facing a particular fear and overcoming it can also be beneficial if the symptoms of anxiety are associated with a specific cause, such as a phobia.

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

The exercise: Exercise may improve. self-esteem and release chemicals into the brain that induce positive emotions

Consulting: Psychological counseling is the standard treatment for anxiety. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments.

Another potential treatment is exposure therapy, which involves countering anxiety triggers in a safe and controlled way to break the fear cycle around the trigger, said Dr. Reddy.

“In the end, stress and anxiety triggers can be identified and differentiated with a set of appropriate mind-relaxing exercises. In addition, it is important to remember that stress and anxiety are a natural and integral part of our daily life, and experiencing them does not always indicate the presence of mental health disorder– said Kinger.

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