What’s the Difference Between an Anxiety Disorder and Anxiety?

What’s the Difference Between an Anxiety Disorder and Anxiety?

Everyone has anxiety. It’s part of the normal human experience. It’s natural to feel anxious when faced with a stressor. In fact, a certain amount of anxiety can be helpful.  Anxiety can protect us from danger.  It can cause us to study harder for a big test or prepare more thoroughly for an important presentation.

The difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is that an anxiety disorder:

  • Is much more severe
  • Causes intense distress
  • Lasts longer
  • Results in avoidant behaviors
  • Impacts your ability to function in certain areas of your life

Anxiety disorders affect your entire being: psychologically, behaviorally, and physiologically. Let’s begin with the psychological effects.

How Anxiety Affects The Mind

There are many psychological symptoms of anxiety. One of the most common is excessive worrying — when you anticipate the worst and dwell on it, thinking about it over and over.

Other psychological symptoms include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Intrusive memories of a past trauma
  • Perfectionism
  • Caring too much about what other people think

People with anxiety disorders also often perceive danger or a problem when there is none, and then react with intense emotion — fear, anger, doom, depression, and hopelessness.

How Anxiety Affects Behavior

Anxiety disorders not only affect you psychologically, but they also affect your behavior. The most common behavior is avoidance. You avoid what makes you anxious. It may be driving on freeways, visiting the dentist, interacting with people, or trying something new.

People with anxiety avoid uncertain situations for fear of becoming anxious or embarrassed. They need to locate the exits so they can get out quickly. Rather than risk uncertainty, anxiety, and embarrassment, it’s easier to avoid the situation altogether.

Procrastination, shyness, and compulsions — such as repetitive checking or hand washing — are three other common behaviors related to avoidance.

How Anxiety Affects The Body

In addition to psychological and behavioral effects, acute and chronic anxiety can also take a toll the body. This includes both how the body immediately reacts when faced with an anxious situation, as well as the body’s reaction to ongoing stress over time.

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Racing heart, pressure in chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension
  • Tremors, shaking
  • Sweating, blushing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

Over time, stress and anxiety can contribute to a variety of medical conditions as well.

Ulcers, high blood pressure, skin conditions, headaches, and bowel problems like diarrhea, constipation, and colitis can all be caused or made worse by anxiety and stress. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body, including the immune system and the heart.

It’s not necessary to have all or even most of these symptoms to have an anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety manifests itself as agitation or anger, over-thinking and excessive worry, or merely a general feeling of nervousness. That may be all it takes to cause you to avoid certain situations. Sometimes you find yourself enduring the anxiety while you force yourself through it.

Anxiety is a common human experience. It can help protect us from danger and even motivate us to do better. But when anxiety becomes so severe that it begins to impact our quality of life, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder requiring professional help.

The good news? Anxiety disorders can be overcome and you can live a happier, more fulfilling life, free from overwhelming anxiety and fear. The Anxiety Solution Series can help. This life-changing audio course uses proven techniques to help you conquer your anxiety once and for all.

Click to learn more about The Anxiety Solution Series and to listen to five chapters for FREE.




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