What Is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

There are some telltale signs that help differentiate stress from anxiety.

Think you're suffering from stress? Or perhaps it's anxiety? It's important to be able to tell the difference between the two, because a proper diagnosis is the first step in determining the right treatment.

Stress is a natural part of life, and not altogether a bad thing. It's the body's response to certain situations that disrupt physical or mental wellbeing. It can trigger the release of adrenaline and create the fight-or-flight sensation, which can alert you to a danger so that you can react accordingly. An ordinary amount of stress is referred to as acute stress and is normal. Chronic stress, however, is long-term and can contribute to depression and have serious negative effects on your health.

Anxiety, or a feeling of anxiousness or fear, is a normal response to stress. However, chronic or severe anxiety that interferes with everyday life is typical of an anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders from panic disorder to obsessive-compulsive disorder are the most common mental disorders in the United States. They affect an estimated 40 million American adults and often occur with other physical or mental illnesses. Physical and psychological symptoms can vary and may include restlessness, irritability, rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping and more.

Learn more about anxiety disorders by reading our online Health Information pages. And remember, only a qualified doctor can make a stress or anxiety-related diagnosis. At the Medical Center of McKinney, we offer psychiatric and behavioral medicine services including treatment of depression and anxiety. Reach our Behavioral Medicine department by calling 972-547-8888. If you need to find a doctor, use our online Find a Physician service or call our Physician Referral Line at 1-855-296-6265.

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