Many patients believe that there is a direct correlation between stress and anxiety. While stress can make a particular anxiety disorder or symptom worse, there is actually a distinct difference between the two. Understanding this difference can be crucial for successfully diagnosing and treating an anxiety disorder.
First, let’s consider stress. Stress is an event, person or issue that can cause a feeling of fear, dread or aggravation in a person. This feeling may cause an individual to feel anxious or apprehensive about a given situation or event. For example, an upcoming review may cause an employee to feel stress.
Next, let’s consider anxiety disorders. These are a defined group of conditions that cause a patient to experience an undo amount of anxiety. Patients who suffer from a disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder or a social phobia experience anxiety to such a degree that it impacts their ability to function regularly.
Anxiety may be end result of a stressful situation or event, but anxiety disorders are a much more defined group of disorders that have a lasting impact on an individual’s life and coping mechanisms.
It is normal for an individual to experience some stress or apprehension regarding an upcoming test or important meeting. It is not normal for the individual to be unable to attend the meeting or to study for the test because of that fear.
Individuals who find they are crossing the line from stress to the far more serious form of anxiety are encouraged to meet with a doctor to discuss their concerns.