Article in Body and Soul
It can be difficult to distinguish between anxiety and stress as they can present in a similar way. There are, however, some distinct differences which involve contrasting management approaches.
If you experience some or all of these symptoms, you may be suffering from anxiety. Just recognising them is an important step towards getting the help needed to overcome it:
- Feeling a sense of panic
- Worrying for no particular reason
- Difficulty facing crowds, going out in public, or about a specific phobia (such as a fear of germs)
- Feeling short of breath
- Sharp chest pains that come and go
- Racing heart and sometimes palpitations
- Numbness or tingling around the mouth or fingertips
- Rapid breathing
- A feeling of a knot in your throat which doesn’t interfere with swallowing
- Sweaty palms
- Difficulty falling asleep or waking in the middle of the night worrying
- Dry mouth
The stress response
The indicators that you’re experiencing a reaction to high stress in your life differ slightly to anxiety and include:
- Fatigue despite getting enough sleep each night
- Frequent headaches
- Neck tension
- Digestive issues such as bloating
- Unexplained weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
- Low sex drive
- Hormone imbalances causing fluid retention and worse pre-menstrual tension symptoms
- Feeling cold all the time
- Hair loss
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Mental fog and difficulty completing tasks
As you can see from these lists, anxiety and stress display some distinct differences when it comes to signs and symptoms. However, stress can lead to anxiety and vice versa and they often co-exist, so the symptoms and signs mentioned above can be mixed.
Similarly, because they often co-exist, the management of anxiety will help reduce stress in your life and vice versa. Learning to reduce your stress levels will also reduce anxiety levels.
How to ease the pressure
Techniques for reducing anxiety include mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and counselling which may involve cognitive behavioural therapies. Stress can be dealt with via strategies that focus on lowering external pressures and increasing internal resilience (the way we deal with stress), such as by doing regular exercise.
However, if you’re experiencing any of these distressing signs and symptoms, discuss this with your GP so you can get to the root cause of how you’re feeling rather than just continuing to live with it.