Anxiety is a term that is used so often; it seems to have lost some of the credibility. Anxiety and stress share similar symptoms, so it is understandable why the two are interchanged so frequently. Chances are, many adults and children may have anxiety that they have brushed off as stress, or as a phase, missing valuable interventions. So how do you know if it is stress or anxiety? We have some clues that can help.
A stress response is a way the body protects itself from a real or perceived threat. For example, the car in front of you slams on their brakes, and you come to a screeching halt just in time. Your heart is beating fast; your muscles are tense. Your stress response is what enabled you to act precisely in the nick of time to avoid the real threat of crashing into that car.
Perceived threats also trigger the stress response, and these happen more often than the real ones. Examples for adults include stress from financial issues, relationship problems, and pressures from work. Examples for children include worrying about grades, family problems, natural disasters, and health. Common stress symptoms are:
- Recurrent Headaches
- Sweaty Palms or Feet
- Sleep Disturbance
- Excessive Worry
- Difficulty Concentrating
The stress response is a good thing when it helps us stay safe or meet that crazy deadline. However, your body is not meant to handle chronic stress, and health problems can occur. Generalized anxiety disorders can be triggered by chronic stress. Once the “threat” is solved, stress symptoms usually go away. With anxiety, the symptoms stay around, eventually disturbing work, social, and personal functions.
Anxiety is defined as excessive worry about any number of things and affects both adults and children. This feeling lasts more days than not for longer than six months and is not proportionate to the actual likelihood of the event occurring. Some additional anxiety symptoms are below:
- Struggling to Control Worry
- On Edge
- Fatigues Easily
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Muscle Tension
- Sleep Disturbances
- Shortness of Breath, Excessive Sweating, Chest Pains
Children Get Anxiety Too
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and sometimes it is difficult to recognize the difference between a phase, or more. A phase is something harmless and temporary when an anxiety disorder cannot be resolved, no matter how much comfort and reassurance is offered. Children with anxiety disorders show persistent shyness and avoid places, activities, and people.
Stress is the New Normal
Everyone experiences the ebbs and flows of stress, so it is important to learn how to manage it when you can. If you feel you or your child is unable to manage stress or symptoms are interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor. Treatments for anxiety include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Forty million adults and one in eight children suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States. It is the most common mental health issue. To learn more about what upcoming anxiety studies Evolution Research Group is conducting that are exploring new options, click here.