The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

April 1, 2018

Oftentimes, people confuse “stress” with “anxiety.”

 

Everybody experiences stress; it’s completely normal, and people sometimes experience anxiety as well. Usually, people are experiencing stress instead of anxiety.

 

People typically feel stressed when they feel “threatened” in a situation. For example, imagine how you would feel if you had an exam tomorrow on ten chapters, and you hadn’t studied yet. You would feel stressed because you’d would be worried that you wouldn’t be able to study ten chapters in one night, causing you to feel threatened. Stress typically comes from the pressure of the work that we’re pushing ourselves to do. This work often “threatens” our bodies and our minds, and that usually causes us to stress out.

 

 Photo: Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash 

 

 

If you want to get technical, stress is caused by a factor. If you are stressing out because you have an exam tomorrow that you haven’t studied for, then you will probably become anxious, because anxiety is caused by stress. Anxiety is what happens after what initially “threatens” you is gone.

 

Let’s say you took the exam the next day. After finishing the exam, what first “threatened” you is gone. However, if you continue to feel a tight knot in your stomach, or if you feel out of breath and jittery, then you’re experiencing anxiety. Maybe you’re anxious because you think you failed the exam, and even if that is the case, your anxiety originally stemmed from the stress that you felt due to the exam. Although the exam is done, you may still be stressing out, and if that is what happens, then you’re going through anxiety.

 

I personally deal with anxiety more often than stress. While I think I handle my stress pretty well, I can admit that I have a hard time handling my anxiety. When I feel anxious, I start to have trouble breathing, and I feel as though I’m about to pass out. I can feel my stomach running in circles; even worse, I feel like I’m about to throw up. The cliché “butterflies in your stomach” is not what anxiety feels like. For me, It feels like there is a knot in my stomach, I get the jitters, and I feel the need to pace back and forth. It sometimes gets to the point where I feel dizzy and I need to sit down, and sometimes I feel like I will pass out. It feels as though I lost all of my energy and all I want to do is cry or sleep because I think it’ll make the pain go away. It feels like my heart is racing faster than ever before, and then I start to worry that my heart is going to burst out of my chest, and that’s when I start to feel pain in every inch of my body. I don’t want to make it sound dramatic, but when I’m anxious, I truly feel like I am going to pass out at any moment; I feel suffocated, as if I don’t have enough oxygen to keep me breathing. This is what anxiety feels like.  

 

The majority of people tend to confuse stress with anxiety, and that’s okay. To keep it simple, stress is caused by all the pressure that we put on ourselves, which causes us to feel “threatened.” Anxiety stems from stress, and it usually happens after the threat is gone.

 

My name is Linda Tran. I'm 24 years old from Boston and I'm majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Social Media at the Southern New Hampshire University. A fun fact about me is that I learned coding and HTML at the age of 11.

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