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Stress, Anxiety, Depression: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter

Stress, Anxiety, Depression: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter

Do you ever feel a certain way or emotion due to one of life’s many challenges and aren’t able to pinpoint exactly what that feeling is? Stress, anxiety and depression are all common reactions to all types of situations that sometimes feel like they all blend together when in reality there are distinct differences.

Is it Stress or Anxiety?

stress [stress]

to experience stress or worry:

Don’t stress about the turkey; I promise it will be delicious.

He is always stressing out over his job.

Stress is usually caused by something external. Whether it’s your career, relationship or an illness, you’re most likely going to feel a certain type of way. People in these stressful situations typically experience fatigue, irritability, anger, muscle pain, digestive issues, high blood pressure and difficulty sleeping just to name a few.

anxiety [ang-zahy-i-tee]

distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune:

He felt anxiety about possibly losing his job.

I am full of anxiety about the future.

When it comes to anxiety, it’s typically something more persistent with excessive worries that linger as a reaction to the stress. Symptoms are extremely similar and can be things like difficulty concentrating, compartmentalizing and sleeping. Then there is also your fatigue, muscle tension and irritability just like you may feel in stressful situations. For this reason, it’s not always easy to decipher whether you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Just remember, stress is a response to something external and anxiety is a person’s internal reaction to the stress.

Is it Depression or Anxiety?

depression [dih-presh-uhn]

a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.

It’s not uncommon for someone to feel both anxious and depressed at the same time. In fact, their symptoms, causes and even treatments can often overlap. Reviewing distinguishable features of the two is probably the best way to explain the difference.

People with depression often move slowly and their reactions can seem flat or dull. People with anxiety are typically more restless as they struggle to manage their thoughts as they race through their head. Another distinguishable feature is each person’s outlook on the future. Depressed people who do not have anxiety are less likely to be panicky about future events as they are often set on believing that things will continue to be bad. Anxious people tend to always be fearful about what lies ahead.

If you are feeling more than one of these, hopefully now you have a better understanding of which is which and what you’re feeling at certain moments. Pinpointing the cause and effects is a great step towards improving your overall mental health and well-being. This post probably won’t help you find a new career that is less stressful or fix your relationship but there are some basic tips that may help with anxiety.