Although Different, Stress And Anxiety Can Cause Similar Health Problems
Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Many Americans suffer from either anxiety or stress – or maybe even a bit of both. It is important to note that there is a difference between anxiety and stress. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Institutes of Health, anxiety consists of symptoms that cause feelings of fear, unease and worry. On the other hand, stress consists of emotional or physical tension brought on by feelings from events or thoughts that make people feel frustrated, angry or nervous. There is a difference between stress and anxiety although they often inform each other.
Before going further into anxiety and stress, however, first it is important to acknowledge that there is a big difference between feeling stress or anxiety and being busy. Many people live busy lives where their days are full of activities and responsibilities. Sometimes being too busy can make us feel like we are stressed, but the truth is that we just have a lot to do. Stress and anxiety bring about physical and emotional reactions, whereas being busy simply keeps us going all day. Sometimes being busy can lead to stress and anxiety, but saying we are stressed because we are busy is not quite accurate.
So, to help us all understand when we are stressed or experiencing anxiety, let’s look at both a bit deeper, starting with anxiety.
As the American Psychological Association explains: anxiety is a symptom, meaning anxiety typically leads to or is a part of another physical or emotional disorder such as depression. Anxiety often manifests in the forms of muscle tension, restlessness, having a sense of impending doom, anxious thoughts including fears of dying from heart attacks, of embarrassment or humiliation, or fears of something terrible happening, and having uncomfortable physical sensations like heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Often the anxiety really is indication of other problems or health issues.
In some cases, anxiety can lead to anxiety disorders. These are more than just the occasional heart palpitations; anxiety disorders consist of other issues. Some of these include the following:
• Agoraphobia – fear of leaving home or going places where one cannot get home easily
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder – having a chronic high level of anxiety
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – repetitive intrusive thoughts and/or urges to do things over and over again.
• Panic Disorder – sudden, intense panic attacks consisting of waves of fear
• Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – anxiety disorder that is a result of a life-threatening event
• Specific Phobia – intense and irrational fear of specific situations or things
• Social Phobia and Public Speaking Anxiety – being extremely anxious in situations that involve the possibility of interaction with others.
The National Institute of Mental Health explains that while brief anxiety is normal (say at the possibility of having to speak in front of others), often anxiety leads to these anxiety disorders, which can last at least six months and get worse if not treated. Though each anxiety disorder has its own symptoms and causes, on the whole “all the symptoms [and causes] cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread.”
Stress, on the other hand, is a more normal feeling not necessarily a psychological symptom (although it can be, of course). MedlinePlus explains: “Stress is a normal feeling. In small amounts, stress can help you get things done. Stress does not affect everyone the same way.” People often feel stress more physically in their bodies including having a faster heart rate, skipping heartbeats, having rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling dizzy, having loose stools, experiencing a frequent need to urinate, having dry mouth, and experiencing problems swallowing. Additionally, someone feeling stress may have a hard time focusing and controlling his or her temper. The person may feel tired often and have problems falling or staying asleep. The person may also have nightmares and problems sexually.
In many cases, stress leads to anxiety, or anxiety is a natural reaction to stress. Stressed can be caused by many things:
• Starting a new job
• Losing a job
• Starting at a new school
• Moving to a new home
• Getting married
• Getting divorced
• Having a child
• Ending a relationship
• Injury or illness to oneself, one’s loved one, or one’s friend
In both cases, treatment is available. There are also several strategies to manage both stress and anxiety as well. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America provides these:
• Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
• Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
• Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
• Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
• Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
• Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
• Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
• Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
• Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
• Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
• Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
• Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
• Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
• Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
No one should scoff at either stress or anxiety because they both have greater impacts on our lives and our health. Stress and anxiety can cause heart damage in addition to what is explained above, and they can lead to heart disease in some cases. Anyone experiencing stress or anxiety should talk to their doctor.
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