What Is The Difference Between Anxiety and An Anxiety Disorder

Jun 28, 2023 | Anxiety

For many people, some degree of anxiety is a normal part of life. In fact, in many cases, the presence of anxiety can be a healthy response to stress. It can help people prepare for challenges or help keep them safe in novel situations and protect them from harm. But when anxiety becomes excessive and uncontrollable and interferes with your ability to function normally, it may actually be a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Understanding the difference between anxiety induced by stressors and a true anxiety disorder is important in order to seek an effective treatment plan and gain back control.

Anxiety That Happens Occasionally Is Normal

Ultimately, anxiety is a natural response to stress. It can help you get through difficult situations and persevere when struggling. But when anxiety is severe or goes on for too long, it can cause a host of problems in your life. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel like your emotions are out of control, that something terrible is going to happen at any time, or that you simply cannot do anything right. 

Some of the common and normal scenarios in which anxiety may be experienced are before an important event, at work, in new situations with unknown people, or any other novel experience. Anxiety can often stem from unknowns. One way to think about anxiety is that it is fear of something in the future based on something in the past. 

In general, normal anxiety is situational and limited in time and duration. Once the situation that is causing the anxiety passes, the anxiety diminishes. Anxiety that is part of an anxiety disorder, on the other hand, tends to be long-lasting and can be difficult to control.

Anxiety Disorders Are Diagnosed

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed when symptoms are persistent and interfere with daily life. There’s a difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are treated using medications and psychotherapy, or both. For example, medication alone might not be enough to treat social anxiety disorder, which is why therapy is often recommended for this type of condition.

One of the most effective ways to determine whether you might have an anxiety disorder is to meet with a mental health provider. Psychological evaluation is the process of talking to a mental health provider about your feelings, thoughts and behavior patterns. Mental health providers can help you understand what’s causing your anxiety, which will lead to better treatment and more targeted solutions for managing it. Although there are many potential causes of anxiety, it’s important to identify the specific cause of your condition so that you can find effective treatments for managing it.

Anxiety And Anxiety Disorders Have Similar Symptomatology

There are many types of anxiety disorders and symptoms vary from person to person. You may experience one or more of the following:

  • Nervousness, restlessness, or feeling on edge
  • Tense muscles
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, or nausea
  • Sweating and increased heart rate
  • Extreme fear that may induce panic attacks
Anxiety Disorders Can Be Treated

There are several different types of medications that can be used to treat anxiety. These include antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines. 

Psychotherapy is often very effective in treating an anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of psychotherapy that has been found effective in treating many different types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. 

It is important to note that intermittent and non-severe anxiety can also be treated using these methods, though medication is less likely to be prescribed in this instance. Natural remedies such as increased exercise, proper diet, and regular therapy can make a significant impact on traditional anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders Can Have Comorbidities

Anxiety disorders can come with other issues, such as

  • Depression: Anxiety and depression often go together, as people with one disorder are more likely to have the other. If someone has both an anxiety disorder and depression, it’s called comorbidity.
  • Other Mood Disorders: People with bipolar disorder or other mood disorders may have symptoms of anxiety at various points, such as when they’re going through a manic episode. The same goes for those with schizophrenia or delusional thinking. These people may also experience significant levels of anxiety during periods when they aren’t in active psychosis.
  • Substance abuse problems: Alcohol and drug abuse are common among people who struggle with anxiety disorders. While people may think taking these substances can help with the anxiety, these drugs often end up compounding the problem.
There Are Many Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to have extreme and often irrational fears. They may experience daily or weekly panic attacks, keeping them from functioning normally throughout the day. Severe anxiety disorders can impact many areas of the person’s life, including their ability to leave the home, hold down a job, or maintain relationships. There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders, all of which have unique symptoms. Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 
  • Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorders Make It Hard To Function Normally

As we have established, anxiety is a normal part of life, and it’s not always a negative thing. It’s actually quite helpful in certain situations. For example, if an employee is about to give an important presentation at work, their body will experience an increase in adrenaline that makes them more alert and able to focus on what needs to be done. This can actually increase their success overall.

However, if you have an anxiety disorder, the way that your body reacts when anxious is vastly different than someone who does not have an anxiety disorder. When someone has a true diagnosed anxiety disorder, they experience excessive fear and worry that interferes with their daily activities or relationships. They may also have physical symptoms like trembling or nausea in addition to mental symptoms like insomnia or concentration problems.

If a person with an anxiety disorder is experiencing debilitating symptoms, it can be helpful to seek treatment. There are several types of treatment options available, including medications and therapy. Working with a licensed professional to find the treatment plan that works best for you is the key for reducing the symptoms of anxiety or anxiety disorders.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, New Dimensions can help.  To learn more about our treatment programs for anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, substance abuse, and other mental health issues, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com.  

New Dimensions also offers psychological testing, virtual telehealth treatment programs, and interventions.  Additional therapy services can be found through our affiliate, MHThrive.  (www.mhthrive.com)


Keywords: Anxiety; Anxiety Disorder; PTSD; Daily Anxiety