Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorders
The difference between normal feelings of anxiety and an actual anxiety disorder.
Just about anyone will experience anxiety from time to time. The demands and stress of everyday life can bring about feelings of anxiousness. During more stressful times, the onset of anxiety may occur more often blurring the lines between normal anxiety and a an anxiety disorder like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or social phobia.
Typically, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. In some cases, it could even be viewed as a good thing. Feeling anxiety about a big project for work that needs to get done can motivate an individual to complete the necessary assignment. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, involves intense and excessive feelings of anxiety, as well as other debilitating symptoms.
There are some key differences between anxiety and anxiety disorders to be aware of:
- Normal anxiety occurs in response to a stressor, such as an upcoming exam, a job interview, starting a new job, or moving. Someone struggling with an anxiety disorder is anxious almost all of the time, but often they cannot identify the source of the stress. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), for example, can find it difficult just to get through the day. Typical small responsibilities such as paying bills or mowing the lawn make them feel anxious.
- Intensity and Duration.An anxiety disorder produces intense and excessive emotional responses. With an anxiety disorder, even when reacting to a stressor, the response is disproportionate to that stressor. Someone might have feelings of anxiousness right before having to give a speech in public, but an individual with an anxiety disorder will be anxious for weeks or even months beforehand and the symptoms experienced will be at a much higher intensity level. Normal anxiety is fleeting. It comes and goes. With an anxiety disorder the feelings are ongoing and can last for months.
- Other Symptoms.Excessive worry and anxiety are not the only symptoms of an anxiety disorder. There can also be dizziness, hot and/or cold sweats, trembling, an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath, and headaches. A feeling of detachment or disconnect for reality is often reported by those with anxiety disorders. Negative thoughts often enter into their heads and are difficult or impossible to shake. They find it difficult to concentrate and focus and have worries about simple day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
- Anxiety disorders impact a person’s entire life. It will interfere with schoolwork, jobs, and family responsibilities. Avoidance is a common symptom of many anxiety disorders. It will often cause the individual to avoid activities that bring about anxiety. This can manifest in poor job attendance, skipping classes, or not paying bills.
If it is excessive anxiety that you are struggling with, seek help. You are not the only one. It is estimated that over 40 million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder.