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Stress vs. Anxiety

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5 min read


Physical signs of stress and anxiety are very similar, making it difficult to distinguish between them. Read the article and learn how to differentiate them.

Written by

Dr. Shikha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Bang Sachi Ashokkumar

Published At May 19, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 19, 2024

What Is Stress?

Stress is a natural human emotion that affects everyone at some point in their lives. In truth, the human body is built to recognize and respond to stress. The human body develops physical and mental reactions in response to changes or difficulties. That is what stress is. The body's stress responses assist it in adapting to new surroundings. Stress can be beneficial as it keeps us attentive, motivated, and prepared to avoid danger. A stress reaction, for example, may allow the body to work harder and stay awake longer if there is an important test coming up. When stressors persist without reprieve or moments of relaxation, it becomes a problem.

Stress is not always a negative thing. When stress helps one escape an accident, fulfill a tight deadline, or have their wits about themself in mayhem, it can be beneficial. People experience stress from time to time, but what one person feels unpleasant may be totally different from what another finds stressful. Public speaking is an example of this. Some people enjoy the rush, while others grow numb at the mere thought of it. However, stress should only be experienced for a short period. The pulse rate and respiration should slow down, and the muscles should relax once the fight-or-flight stage passes. The body should revert to its natural form in a short period, with no long-term consequences. Severe, regular, or long-term stress can be damaging to one's mental and physical health.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is experiencing a feeling of fear, worry, and restlessness. It can make one restless, sweaty, and tense and cause their heart to race. It could be a natural reaction to stress. When confronted with a challenging situation at work or before making a major decision, one could feel apprehensive. It may assist in coping. Anxiety may offer a jolt of energy or assist someone in concentrating. However, for a person who suffers from anxiety disorders, the worry is persistent and can be overwhelming at times. The human body's normal response to stress is anxiety. It is a sense of dreading over what is to come. Most people are afraid and frightened on the first day of their job, starting a new school, or giving a speech. However, one may have an anxiety disorder if the anxiety is severe, lasts more than six months, and interferes with daily life.

What Is the Root Cause of Anxiety and Stress?

Either mental or physical pressure can lead to stress. This pressure could be associated with a significant life transition, such as:

  • Shifting.

  • Beginning a new career or school.

  • Being unwell or injured.

  • Having a sick or seriously hurt peer or family member.

  • Suffering the loss of a family member.

  • Marrying.

  • Conceiving a child.

Stress-inducing factors need not be life-changing events. One may be stressed out because of the following:

  • A lengthy list of tasks to complete during the weekend.

  • Taking part in a large business conference.

  • A project that has an approaching deadline.

How to Differentiate Between Stress and Anxiety?

Anxiety and stress are frequently used interchangeably, and there is some overlap between the two. Anxiety and stress have the same fight, flight, or freeze reaction, and the physical sensations felt in both cases can be extremely similar. However, the causes of stress and anxiety are frequently distinct. Stress is mostly concerned with external demands that individuals cannot cope with. Individuals likely understand what they are stressed about, and the signs of stress usually go away after the stressful circumstance is finished.

Anxiety, on the other side, is not usually straightforward to diagnose. Anxiety is concerned with concerns or fears about things that will not go away even if the stressor is absent. Both stress and anxiety are natural parts of being human, but they can become problematic if they stay for an extended period or have an adverse effect on their health or daily lives.

What Are the Symptoms of Stress?

When somebody is stressed, they may have the following symptoms:

  • A faster heartbeat and breathing.

  • Loneliness.

  • Nausea.

  • Irritation.

  • Sense of being unhappy.

  • Feeling overwhelmed.

  • Lightheadedness

  • Feeling moody or angry.

  • Diarrhea or constipation.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety include:

  • Restlessness or a feeling of being tensed or agitated.

  • Exhaustion.

  • Tension in the muscles.

  • Disturbance of sleep.

  • Difficulty in controlling worry.

  • Symptoms of psychosomatic conditions such as stomachaches, dizziness, and headaches.

  • Physical signs and symptoms include racing heartbeat, profuse perspiration, breathlessness, and chest pain.

What Are the Disorders Associated With Stress and Anxiety?

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The most prevalent anxiety disorder. In this condition, individuals are concerned about terrible things occurring to them or to those they love, and sometimes, they can't even pinpoint the reason for their worries.

  • Panic Disorder: Panic attacks are brought on by this illness and are episodes of intense fear marked by rapid heart rate and dyspnea.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This disorder is brought on by a traumatic event and results in anxiety or flashbacks.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: When this condition is present, social interactions involving other people might elicit severe anxiety.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Repetitive thinking and the need to do specific ritualistic behaviors are symptoms of this disorder.

How to Cope With Stress?

It may take a little practice to figure out how to deal with stress. It is possible that what works for someone else does not work for us. It is critical to create a personal stress-reduction strategy to cope when stress strikes.

  • Deep breathing is the single most important thing one can do to relax when they are stressed.

  • Disconnecting from the digital world and reconnecting with the natural surroundings for a period of time each day can be helpful. Practice mindfulness, and take a walk outside.

  • Keeping exercise in the daily routine will help in avoiding having negative reactions to stressful situations.

  • Engaging in a creative hobby allows the mind to unwind.

  • Listening to mellow, relaxing music reduces stress levels.

  • Keeping a journal will help shift through the challenges and concentrate on what went well in the day.

How to Deal With Anxiety?

Psychotherapy and medicine are the two most common therapies for anxiety, and many patients benefit from a combination of these two.

  • Medications: Antidepressants have some minor side effects, but they can help ease anxiety symptoms and can be taken for a long time. The healthcare professional should explain the medications to the patient in detail. Any negative effects should be immediately reported. Do not discontinue these medications without consulting the healthcare practitioner.

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy is beneficial in assisting patients in identifying, processing, and coping with their anxiety triggers. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a very successful, short-term treatment that teaches people how to address their triggers using specialized skill sets.

  • Lifestyle Modifications: Before starting any medication, there are a few things one may do at home. Home cures for anxiety symptoms include daily exercise, proper sleep hygiene, healthy nutrition, and avoiding coffee and alcohol.


Though stress and anxiety are two distinct concepts, they are intertwined. Anxiety can be triggered by stress in some instances. Worries and anxiety are to be expected in life. Every stress or anxiety should not be viewed as a cause for alarm. Therefore, it is critical to understand when such feelings have negative implications for lives. A mental health expert can assist in developing new coping skills if the stress and anxiety are becoming unbearable.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Stress a Type of Anxiety?

Stress causes both mental and physical symptoms, including rage, irritation, digestive problems, exhaustion, muscle pain, and difficulties sleeping. Anxiety is characterized by persistent, overwhelming worries that continue even in the absence of a stressor.


What Does It Feel Like to Be Stressed or Anxious?

The symptoms of being anxious are as follows:
- Feeling nervous.
- Restless.
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation).
- Tense.
- A feeling of panic or doom.
- Having a sense of impending danger.
- Having an increased heart rate.


How to Overcome the Tension and Anxiety?

Various methods are now available to reduce stress and anxiety, such as:
- Keep a journal.
- Get active.
- Laugh more and enjoy life.
- Meditation.
- Connect with others.
- Yoga. 
- Get enough sleep.


What Are the Top Five Emotional Indications of Stress?

- Being more emotional than normal is one of the mental or behavioral signs.
- Having difficulty making judgments, solving difficulties, concentrating, and completing tasks.
- Feeling overburdened or tense.
- Using drink or drugs to cope with emotional distress.
- Having difficulty remembering or keeping track of stuff.


Can Anxiety Be Treated?

Psychotherapy and medication are the two basic therapies for anxiety disorders. A mix of the two may be the most beneficial, or either one of them will be the most effective.


What Is the Primary Source of Anxiety?

Adverse childhood, adolescent, or adult events are common triggers for anxiety disorders. Stress and trauma at a young age are likely to have a particularly large impact. Physical or emotional abuse are examples of experiences that might lead to anxiety difficulties.


What Foods Relieve Anxiety Quickly?

- Chamomile.
- Blueberries.
- Dark chocolate.
- Turmeric.
- Salmon.
- Green tea.
- Yogurt.
- Almonds.


How Much Anxiety Is Too Much?

Long-term anxiety can lead to more serious health issues, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and also becoming more susceptible to illnesses. If there is constant anxiety in daily life, it may lead to an anxiety condition or a panic disorder.


Is It True That Crying Relieves Stress?

Many people equate weeping with being unhappy and making them feel worse, yet crying can really assist in boosting one’s mood by releasing stress hormones. Crying reduces the stress level, which may help to sleep better and enhance the immune system.


Which Is the Most Effective Anxiety Treatment?

The most effective type of psychotherapy for anxiety problems is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT, which is typically a short-term treatment, focuses on teaching particular strategies to help improve the symptoms and gradually return to the activities avoided due to anxiety.


Is Anxiety a Chronic Condition?

According to various studies, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic illness that causes patients to suffer for many years, creating severe distress in everyday life functioning.


Is Anxiety Considered a Mental Illness?

Anxiety disorders are the most frequent type of mental illness, afflicting about 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. However, they are curable, and a variety of effective treatments are available. Therapy enables the majority of people to live normal, productive lives.


Is Anxiety Caused by a Chemical Imbalance?

It is still unsure what causes anxiety disorders. Studies suggest that prolonged or severe stress can alter the chemical balance that regulates mood. A lot of stress over a lengthy period of time might contribute to an anxiety condition.


Do Bananas Help With Anxiety?

Bananas contain B vitamins such as folate and vitamin B6. These are essential for the creation of serotonin, which can help boost mood and reduce anxiety.
Dr. Bang Sachi Ashokkumar
Dr. Bang Sachi Ashokkumar



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