How many of us have used or heard in others expressions such as “I’m stressed”, “I have anxiety”, and the like.
They are concepts that we have so integrated into our everyday language that It is very common that we use them interchangeably and on some occasions even without knowing exactly what they mean or what is the scope of their connotations.
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What is stress?
As we well know, “stress” is a term frequently used in our everyday language and is often confused with a state of nervousness and even impotence.
However, we must be clear that when we talk about stress we are referring, in general terms, to a reaction of tension that our organism undergoes before a stimulus that is perceived as challenging. Here we explain more about stress.
This reaction normally manifests itself with insecurity, hypervigilance, muscle tension, stomach symptoms, etc. It is, so to speak, the physical component of anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Despite the confusion that the term can generate, when we talk about anxiety we are basically referring (in a very general way) to an emotional state that occurs without there necessarily being a real threat. It causes us a confused maelstrom of emotions that puts us on alert about the possibility of a future danger.
Like the rest of the emotional experiences that the human being is capable of perceiving or manifesting, anxiety itself is not pathological. Experiencing anxiety in a timely manner in truly harmful or dangerous situations is a functional and adaptive reaction that helps us respond to the demands of the environment. It prepares us for action and sets our entire body in motion so that it gives a response that allows us to solve the situation. Therefore we can establish a difference between pathological and adaptive anxiety.
At this point, we cannot forget about another important concept: concern. This is nothing other than the set of thoughts that we elaborate in the face of that challenging situation by which we feel threatened. It is mental content, ideas that develop around a specific issue or event.
It is when worry and stress come together that we can determine that an anxiety episode is taking place.
Differences between stress and anxiety
At this point, we can establish that the main differences between these concepts lie in their nature and manifestation. As we saw previously, when we refer to an episode of stress, we are talking about a physical symptomatology that in each organism may manifest itself in a different way, but that will keep hypervigilance and muscular tension as a common point.
There are cases where stressful states are manifested through symptomatology physical such as digestive, others in which skin eruptions, tension headaches, joint pain, etc. occur. However, a picture of anxiety goes further.
It is a more complex expression than, In addition to the physical plane, it involves aspects of our cognitive processing. in which they will be affected (in addition to what has already been commented) our emotions. Intrusive thoughts, obsessive ideas, pessimism, irascibility, etc. may appear.
When they become pathological and have to ask for help
We previously commented that both stress and anxiety are normal and even adaptive reactions. Feeling stressed or anxious in dangerous or challenging situations prepares our body for action and it is an evolutionary process that has allowed us to survive as a species throughout history.
However, toomething that a priori is normal and constituent of human nature, can become pathological at the moment from which it becomes a constant in our lives.
When stress and/or anxiety persist in our daily lives, they become an unpleasant experience that significantly conditions our daily lives.
At that moment, the intervention of specialists is necessary to help us deal with it and to teach us the necessary tools.
Muñoz Morales, S and Valdivia Fuenzalida, EA (2021). Skating in the sand. Everything you need to know about depression and anxiety. Amazon Fulfillment