Ways To Tell The Difference Between Stress And Anxiety

To look after your mental health, it helps to understand the signs when something’s wrong. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between certain issues. Stress and anxiety are two things that some people might struggle to distinguish from one another. Luckily, we know the ways to tell the difference between stress and anxiety.

Stress tends to be more external, while anxiety is usually internal

One of the biggest differences between stress and anxiety is that the former is usually external, while the latter is internal. For instance, stress tends to come from things like having too many responsibilities to deal with. Meanwhile, anxiety is about how you react to stressors. Moreover, those feelings of being overwhelmed and distressed can stick around once you’ve removed said stressors.

Anxiety is much more likely to leave you unable to function properly

Your ability to cope with stress and anxiety can differ significantly, which is another way to tell the two apart. While stressful situations might be tough to manage, people are typically still able to deal with them and make it through to the other side. This isn’t so easy with anxiety, though, especially as this issue can make a person unable to handle everyday tasks. If you find yourself struggling to the point of having a panic attack, it’s anxiety rather than stress that you’re dealing with.

Stress is usually a response to something that’s happening
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Stress is usually a response to something that’s happening

Another of the ways to tell the difference between stress and anxiety is by looking at what your feelings are in response to. Are you reacting to something that’s happened or something that hasn’t happened? If it’s the former, you’re probably dealing with stress because this tends to be a response to something that’s going on. Meanwhile, anxiety can leave a person feeling worried or apprehensive about something that hasn’t happened and may well never happen.

An anxious person tends to have an excessive reaction to stressful situations

Everyone has different reactions to things, especially in a stressful situation. However, if your reaction to such situations seems more extreme than other people’s, it’s possible that you’re dealing with anxiety. Excessive worry and distress might seem reasonable in your mind, especially if that’s always how you’ve been. Someone with an outside perspective, though, might disagree and could help you to identify the anxiety that you’ve been dealing with.

Some symptoms can help to tell the difference between stress and anxiety
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Some symptoms can help to tell the difference between stress and anxiety

While stress and anxiety might have overlaps, there are symptoms of the latter that help to tell the difference between the two. Panic attacks are perhaps the most common of these and are an easy way to identify that you’re dealing with more than just stress. If these or other symptoms pop up in certain instances, it may also tell you what you’re dealing with. For instance, if they only occur in social situations, it may mean you have a social anxiety disorder.

Neither stress nor anxiety is ideal. However, knowing which one you’re dealing with can help you to find solutions to live with them.