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Stress vs Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are the two words that have become very common in todays times. To be very specific, they have become an inevitable part of our lives. But, when in a challenging situation, can we really make out whether we are stressed or anxious? The answer is, NO. Then, how should we come to know the difference between the two? Let’s dive a little deeper to understand these.

Stress and anxiety, although two different topics but, are very closely related to each other. Both display many common symptoms which make the diagnosis even more tough. It’s important to understand that stress and anxiety both are natural human responses with a purpose. They make us aware about the upcoming danger and make us safe. The major difference is the triggers, stress is generated by a trigger and it fades away once the trigger is over whereas anxiety has no triggers, it can originate without any specific reason. It’s constant worrying about anything without being rational. It’s like a mesh work of thoughts that keeps becoming complicated by linking one thought with the other.

For example, exam causes stress which is short lived and gets over once the exams are over. So, over here, the trigger is the exams. On the other hand, a person experiencing anxiety over exams, can make even a unit test a big deal by overthinking about unnecessary outcomes or extreme thoughts like ‘if I get bad marks then what will my teachers or friends or parents think about me.’ He or she might even blow up the imagination to higher negative manifestations and hence even develop anxiety symptoms based on anticipation of going for an exam.

When an individual loses a job for example, he or she experiences immense amount of stress but when he makes a mesh of thoughts by overthinking about the consequences of this, like, what will happen now? How will he handle the expenses? How will he pay the bills? etc. that can lead to acute anxiety since the problem in hand is very big and the individual has to Fight it since Flight is not the option.

Stress of exams
Mesh of thoughts due to overthinking


Both have a wide range of psychological and physiological symptoms which are common like, racing heartbeat, stomach upset, diarrhea, headache, sleeplessness etc.

Some common symptoms of stress are: nausea, sweating palms, dry mouth, dizziness, chest pain in some cases, headache, blood pressure, irritation and being moody.

Some common symptoms of anxiety are: overthinking, restlessness, constant worry of something bad to happen, muscle tension, tingling sensation on feet and hands, disturbed sleep.


Stress is caused by external factors like, meeting a deadline at the workplace, exam stress, major life changes like, getting married, change of place, house, death, financial investments, everyday worries.


Anxiety is more fear driven and can be caused by a combination of factors: environmental, hereditary, chemical imbalances, more intake of caffeine, serious health issue, financial long term problems, chronic insomnia, public speaking etc.


Recognizing your triggers can help you make out the difference between the two. Anxiety and stress both are our body’s natural defense responses which lead to flight or fight situation. Whenever we face a challenge, our body releases stress hormones which prepare us to either fight with the situation or run away from it and this is where we display the symptoms discussed above. Sometimes, you can face both stress and anxiety together simultaneously where you constantly feel overwhelmed and distressed and can cause severe health issues.

Although both are natural body responses and are not always bad, but if they exceed the limit to such an extent that it starts affecting your daily life, then it calls for a professional help. Counseling and medication together are beneficial to cope up with the symptoms of both stress and anxiety.

NOTE: Never forget the three doctors who have immense healing powers and are free of cost: - Exercise, Sunshine and Mother Nature

Know more about Teenage Anxiety, OCD and Stress.

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