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Stress versus anxiety

Alternative Names: Anxiety versus stress; Difference between stress and anxiety

Information

The following are common questions about stress and anxiety.

Question:

What is the difference between feeling stressed and having an anxiety disorder?

Answer:

Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, worried, or even anxious. What is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another.

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear. You may not know the source of this uneasiness, which can add to the distress you feel.

Anxiety disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that cause excessive anxiety. They include generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social phobia. People with these disorders have symptoms every day or nearly every day that cause them to have difficulty with daily activities and relationships. Panic disorder is another type of anxiety disorder. Symptoms tend to come and go.

Question:

Does anger increase your risk of heart problems?

Answer:

Adrenaline (sometimes called the "fight or flight" hormone) increases when you are angry or stressed.

High levels of adrenaline and similar stress hormones raise your blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Stress hormones can even damage your heart directly and make you more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking or overeating.

See also:

Question:

What can you do to help relieve stress?

Answer:

Just like causes of stress differ from person to person, what relieves stress is not the same for everyone. In general, however, making certain lifestyle changes as well as finding healthy, enjoyable ways to cope with stress helps most people. For example:

  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. Don't overeat.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Don't use nicotine, cocaine, or other recreational drugs.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques like guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, or meditation. Try biofeedback with a certified professional to get you started.
  • Take breaks from work. Make sure to balance fun activities with your responsibilities. Schedule some leisure time every day. Spend time with people you enjoy, including quality time with your family.
  • Try learning to make things with your hands (such as needlepoint, woodwork, or knitting), playing an instrument, or listening to soothing music.

Schiffer RB. Psychiatric disorders in medical practice. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 420.

Review Date: 8/10/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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