Anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be two very challenging mental health diagnoses to manage, especially if you’re not fully aware of the differences between them. As more and more people are faced with challenges like social isolation and fear related to the global pandemic, the number of people experiencing these challenges is growing. Ignorance and misunderstanding can keep people from seeking the help they need to manage their mental health, so it is important to know the difference between anxiety and PTSD so that you can recognize the warning signs and take necessary action.
Exploring the Difference between Anxiety and PTSD
Anxiety and PTSD can often appear similar, but they are actually two distinct mental health diagnoses. Anxiety is a general term for various conditions related to a feeling of stress or fear, whereas PTSD is a designated disorder typically resulting from a traumatic event or ordeal. Those suffering from anxiety typically experience physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, restlessness, nausea, and issues with concentration. PTSD, on the other hand, can often be characterized by intrusive unexpected memories and flashbacks, feelings of shame or guilt, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and difficulty connecting with others.
What Makes Someone Vulnerable to Mental Health Stressors?
Experts typically agree that there are a variety of environmental and biological factors that can make someone more vulnerable to mental health stressors. Genetics, for example, is an important risk factor for anxiety and PTSD, as some research points to a correlation between the two conditions when a family history of either is present. A person’s upbringing can also be a contributing factor to anxiety or PTSD. Poor parenting, physical and/or sexual abuse, and trauma can all be risk factors. Additionally, being exposed to a traumatic event or living in an unstable environment can predispose someone to these conditions.
Warning Signs of an Anxiety or PTSD Diagnosis
Since anxiety and PTSD can have many overlapping symptoms it’s important to recognize the warning signs and take action before the conditions become more severe. Someone who is dealing with anxiety may experience panic attacks, anxiety attacks, extreme fear and phobias, avoidance of specific situations, and cognitive dissonance. PTSD symptoms may include intrusive memories and flashbacks, feelings of guilt or shame, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, exaggerated startle response, and difficulty feeling connected to people. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek professional help to ensure you get the proper care and treatment.
Advantages of Seeking Professional Mental Health Treatment
One of the biggest advantages of seeking professional mental health treatment for anxiety and PTSD is that it allows you to have access to personalized care. Professional help also provides structure, which can be incredibly helpful when it comes to managing anxiety or PTSD. Additionally, it can help you to identify triggers, so that you are better able to avoid them in the future. Furthermore, mental health treatment can offer you the opportunity to safely discuss your worries and fears and to have them validated in a way that might be difficult to find elsewhere.
Supporting a Person Struggling with Anxiety or PTSD
When it comes to supporting someone struggling with either condition, it is important to be patient and understanding. If you know someone who suffers from either condition, make sure to check in on them, listen to them without judgement, and validate their feelings and experiences. Additionally, it’s also important to give them space if and when they need it and to avoid pressuring them to talk about their condition if they don’t feel comfortable. Finally, an important way to show your support is encouraging them to seek professional help if needed.
Coping with Anxiety and PTSD Challenges
Managing both anxiety and PTSD can be a daunting task, so it is important to have a plan of action in place. Developing a healthy lifestyle is a great place to start. Getting enough rest and sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly will help keep your body and mind balanced and healthy. Having a regular meditation practice or engaging in mindfulness activities can also help defuse anxiety and reduce symptoms of PTSD. You may also want to consider finding a therapist that specializes in these areas, as well as connecting with a community of people who can relate to what you are going through.
Although anxiety and PTSD can seem similar, it is important to understand the differences between each condition so that you can recognize the warning signs of mental health. Knowing the risk factors and acknowledging the benefits of seeking professional help can be the first steps towards recovering from a mental health disorder. Finally, giving love and support to those who are struggling, as well as having proper coping skills are beneficial in managing anxiety and PTSD.