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What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

Although they can both become chronic in nature, stress and anxiety are both natural human emotions. According to research, situations that are unpredictable and beyond a person’s control are more likely to cause chronic stress, which is also true for anxiety disorders. Keep reading to learn about the differences and similarities between these two conditions.


Stress vs Anxiety

Stress results from demands on your mind or body, often arising from various frustrating or anxiety-inducing events or situations.

Anxiety, on the other hand, encompasses feelings of fear, worry, or unease and can manifest with or without an apparent trigger, often sharing similar symptoms with stress.

It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious sometimes, and it can even serve as motivation. But stress and anxiety that don’t go away can get in the way of daily life and hurt your mental and physical health. We will talk about the differences between stress and anxiety, as well as how to get help for better management.

What are the Differences in Symptoms?


The symptoms of stress and anxiety share significant overlap, making it sometimes challenging to distinguish between the two. However, there are subtle differences to consider:

Stress Symptoms:

  1. Response to Specific Events: Stress often arises as a reaction to specific situations or events, such as a looming deadline or a job interview.
  2. Motivational: In moderate amounts, stress can be a motivating factor, encouraging individuals to meet challenges and achieve tasks.
  3. Physical Symptoms: Stress may lead to physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and an increased heart rate. It can also cause digestive issues, such as stomach discomfort or diarrhea.

Anxiety Symptoms:

  1. Generalized Worry: Anxiety involves excessive and generalized worry about various aspects of life. It may not have a clear trigger or cause.
  2. Chronic Nature: Unlike stress, anxiety can be established and persist even when there’s no specific external stressor.
  3. Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms: Anxiety often comes with emotional symptoms, including constant unease and apprehension. Cognitive symptoms may involve racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and anticipation of adverse events.
  4. Physical Symptoms: While stress can lead to physical symptoms, anxiety might cause a broader range of physical manifestations, including trembling, sweating, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks are also a hallmark of anxiety disorders.

To sum up, stress is generally a reaction to certain things that cause stress and can sometimes be motivating. On the other hand, anxiety is more widespread, lasts longer, and is linked to a broader range of mental and emotional symptoms. It’s important to remember that long-term stress can cause anxiety, and long-term anxiety can cause more stress, making the difference between the two less clear. Getting help from a mental health worker can help you deal with both conditions better if you’re having trouble with them.

How to Tell Apart Stress From Anxiety?

It can be hard to tell the difference between worry and anxiety. Stress usually happens because of certain events or situations and drives people to take action. The stress goes away when the stressful situation ends. Anxiety, on the other hand, includes fear and general unease that doesn’t go away after a specific event. Both depression and anxiety can cause similar physical symptoms, but anxiety can lead to panic attacks and a constant feeling of being on edge.

Here’s a table about their Differences:

CharacteristicStressAnxiety
Typical TriggerSpecific events or situationsThis may include panic attacks
DurationOften short-term, tied to stressorsIt may require ongoing coping skills
NatureReaction to external pressuresGeneralized, chronic apprehension
Physical SymptomsSimilar, e.g., muscle tensionMay include panic attacks
Psychological SymptomsWorry tied to stressor resolutionChronic, pervasive worry
Response to StressorsMotivation to resolve the issueTendency to exaggerate concerns
Impact on Daily LifeOften manageableMay interfere with daily functioning
Management StrategiesMay dissipate as stressor resolvesMay dissipate as the stressor resolves
Stress vs Anxiety and How They Differ

Do You Have Anxiety?

Some people have trouble telling the difference between stress and anxiety. This test might help you figure it out.

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