Stress and anxiety are two different concepts that are often confused because of their similarity in psychophysiological activation. However, they are two different conditions, as well as the repercussions they have on our health.
The differences between stress and anxiety are found precisely in the factors of intensity and duration of these two responses that appear as a defense mechanism.
Anxiety, the most common mental disorder in the world is on the rise. According to WHO,people with depression or anxiety have increased in recent years, close to 50%, from 416 million to 615 million.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an unconscious defense mechanism that every human being possesses to defend themselves from situations considered threatening. Therefore, we understand that anxiety is the physiological response to an alarm that indicates that we must escape from a threat, neutralize it, avoid it, adapt or fight against it.
The function of anxiety is to mobilize the organism, keep it alert and willing to intervene in the face of risks and threats , so that its consequences do not occur or can be minimized.
When our organism is activated in a threatening situation, we usually feel fear or anxiety, which can be manifested with great intensity. Something completely normal and essential since it is an essential answer for our survival. Anxiety as an adaptive mechanism is good, functional, normal and does not represent any health problem.
The problem arises, sometimes, when this defensive mechanism works in an altered way, producing health problems and incapacitating the person.
Generalized anxiety disorder and its symptoms
We speak of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) when the person suffering from anxiety is unable to control it . When this happens we are facing a mental disorder, which can be caused by different factors, including stress.
This disorder is very common nowadays. In fact, it can affect anyone, at any age, even children, although it occurs more often in women.
The main symptom of anxiety disorder is the presence of a strong worry or tension for at least 6 months, even if there is no clear cause or it is insignificant.
Other symptoms that can alert us that we are facing a GAD are the difficulty to concentrate, fatigue, irritability, problems with sleep, restlessness upon wakening and other physical symptoms such as muscle tension, stomach problems, sweating or difficulty breathing.
In many cases, the person who suffers from this anxiety is aware that their worry or fear is more intense than it should be, but still faces great difficulties in controlling them.
What is stress and what causes it?
We understand stress as a feeling of physical or emotional tension that can arise in the face of any situation or thought that causes frustration, anger or nerves.
It is the response of the organism to a challenge or a demand to be able to face it. When this demand is greater than the resources we have to face it, stress arises to try to solve the demand.
As with anxiety, stress in small episodes is positive but when it is prolonged over time it can damage our health.
The causes of stress are different in each person although some common causes are:
- Marry or divorce
- Have a child
- Start a new job or retire
- The death of a close person
- A dismissal or other labor problems
- Economic problems
- Problems in the home
- Serious diseases
Chronic stress and acute stress
Stress is classified into two types: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is one that in the short term disappears and that everyone feels at some time or another. It is the stress that helps us to control dangerous situations and that also arises when something new or exciting is done.
The chronic stress is the one that lasts for a long period of time. Any type of stress that lasts for weeks or months is a chronic stress
This type of stress can appear for example when we have economic problems, an unhappy marriage or problems at work. Some people may become accustomed to this stress and not realize that it is a health problem, especially when we do not control it, and may cause, among other problems:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Skin problems such as eczema or acne
- Menstrual problems
Stress can also cause other physical and emotional problems that are symptoms that indicate that we have a stress problem:
- Common aches and pains
- Rigid neck or jaw
- Fatigue, fatigue, lack of energy
- Lack of concentration
- Sexual problems
- Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
- Loss or gain of weight
Differences between stress and anxiety
What mainly differentiates anxiety from fear is that anxiety occurs with the anticipation that something can happen , preparing us for it. Fear, on the other hand, arises because of something that is happening at that precise moment.
Anxiety disorders occur when activating certain stimuli that do not really constitute any real danger , it is a disproportionate activation, as happens for example with phobias.
On the other hand , stress is a response that makes it easier for us to have more resources to deal with situations that are not habitual , mobilizing us as a warning signal to attend to what is important to us.
When we suffer stress, we know what causes it, usually external factors. However, with anxiety we can be less aware that it is producing it,since it feeds on internal factors such as fear.
While stress disappears with the stressful situation, anxiety usually lasts.
Another difference between stress and anxiety is the intensity with which it occurs. In the case of anxiety, this intensity can be very strong, unlike the alarm response that characterizes stress.
Stress is associated with feelings of frustration and nervousness, while anxiety arises out of fear, uneasiness and worry. That is to say, in the stress the worry predominates, while in the anxiety the fear does.
When should a doctor be consulted?
When our body is overloaded, the endocrine system and the nervous system begin to give the first signs of saturation and may even collapse. Therefore, it is important to stop it as soon as possible.
In fact, when stress is maintained over time it can turn into anxiety that over time, can trigger panic attacks that limit the person’s life.
When both stress and anxiety cease to be transient, you should go to the doctor.
- When the frequency of appearance of anxiety is increasingly high.
- If the intensity of the symptoms suppose a problem for the personal well-being.
- When the duration of the episodes is increasingly prolonged.
- If it affects or interferes in other areas of life.
- When the solutions that have been tried have failed.
Control breathing to reduce stress and anxiety
Breathing is one of the few involuntary acts that we can control consciously. Breathing well and learning abdominal breathing techniques, among many other benefits, is an excellent way to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is key in the communication between the brain and body, especially sending signals of tranquility and relaxation. Therefore, meditation and yoga are two great alternatives for people who suffer stress and anxiety.
Natural supplements against stress and anxiety
The use of plants to combat stress and anxiety is effective and has been used for centuries. Whether in infusion, in mother tinctures, natural extracts or as a nutritional supplement, our health can benefit from the use of plants to combat stress and anxiety.
Valerian for stress and anxiety
The Valerian root is an ideal plant for anxiety, excitement or nervousness, even helps us relax muscles suffer when muscle tension. We can consume it in infusion or in the form of nutritional supplement. It can also be combined with chamomile and lemon balm.
Melisa for anxiety and nervousness
Melissa has been used since the Middle Ages as a treatment for stress and anxiety. Besides reducing anxiety and nervousness, it also induces sleep and improves the quality of sleep. This plant can also be combined with others such as chamomile, valerian or hops.
GABA to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety
The Gaba is a neurotransmitter that helps calm anxiety and acts as a muscle relaxant. GABA supplements are the most used to treat stress and chronic anxiety. Improves relaxation and reduces anxiety.
Rhodiola for stress and anxiety
The Rhodiola Rosea is a plant currently used to strengthen the nervous system, combat stress, anxiety, fatigue and even to leave behind depressive symptoms.
Passiflora for nervous restlessness and sleeplessness
The sedative action of Passiflora, although it is usually used for insomnia, can be a good natural alternative to anxiolytics in situations of stress and anxiety. Improves insomnia, stress, irritability and anxiety. If you opt for this plant, keep in mind that it is not advisable to consume it more than one month in a row.
Sedatif PC homeopathic medicine for anxiety
Sedatif PC is a homeopathic medicine that combines: Abrus precatorius, Aconitum napellus, Atropa belladonna, Calendula officinalis, Chelidonium majus and Viburnum opulus. This homeopathic medicine exerts a sedative and antispasmodic action. This treatment is used to relieve anxious and emotional states as well as mild sleeping problems.