Do you find our website to be helpful?
Yes   No

What is the difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder?

Anxiousness or anxiety is a normal reaction to various kinds of events and circumstances in our lives. Stress and anxiety manifest as a part of our inner caution systems to notify us about potential threats or other hazards, often preparing our bodies to fight back or get out of a harmful situation.

A manageable amount of anxiety from time to time can be practical. For instance, it can inspire you to get ready for a test at school or complete a task in the workplace. Even happy events like relocating to a new city or celebrating a birthday can bring up anxiety-- all of this is just part of being human. You can think of it as a range or continuum of emotion.

When patients ask us about anxiety, there are usually two things required to make a potential diagnosis of anxiety disorder rather than just feeling “stressed out”:

- the anxiety is out of proportion to the circumstance and,

- it hinders the ability to function on a daily basis.

All of us face unpredictability in our lives. But somebody with an anxiety disorder might prepare for the unpredictability and potential end results in a way that isn't proportionate to the real threat.

These are relentless concerns that don't vanish, often causing people to avoid triggering situations or things that worsen their signs and symptoms – meaning they can lose out on a lot of life!  Many individuals share that they recognize their anxiety isn't rational or appropriate for the situation but cannot stop themselves from the intrusive thoughts and physical sensations can come with anxiety.

Real life examples

If you wake up in the morning, and suddenly realize you have to make a major presentation at work, it is normal to feel a little nervous or anxious about the day.  You may even bolt out of bed to get yourself awake and prepared for the event early.  Your heart may pound, and you may feel a bit queasy, but once the presentation is done, you immediately go back to feeling like your normal self.

Maybe you are asked to fly or travel for work and have some concerns about COVID or flying in general.  That is a pretty normal and typical response for many people.  And most will also take what precautions they can and then proceed to get on the airplane and do their job. A person with an anxiety disorder, on the other hand, may not be able to even get themselves to the airport because of their fears – even if it puts their job in jeopardy.

A clear example of what happens to someone with a medical condition related to anxiety is that they will awaken one morning and believe that something terrible might happen that day, obsess about it all day and even that night or into tomorrow will continue to think about all the possible outcomes to something that is not even a real possibility!

Signs and symptoms

Having a true anxiety disorder can include bothersome physical signs and symptoms such as:

- migraines or headaches.

- tiredness or chronic fatigue.

- muscle pain.

- insomnia – trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep during the night.

- digestion issues.

On the other hand, normal anxiety:

- is associated with a specific circumstance or issue.

- lasts only as long as the specific instance.

- is equal in severity to the importance of the issue.

- is a reasonable response relative to what peers might do in the same situation.

If your stress and anxiety is keeping you from living your best life, or if it's affecting your health and wellness, talk with a medical professional that specializes in anxiety disorders, like Dr. Sambunaris. Know that anxiety disorders are treatable, as well as manageable, once you get a proper medical diagnosis and support!

Angelo Sambunaris, M.D.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Telehealth: The Advantages of Telemedicine

Struggles to get to the clinic? Trying to reduce your exposure to COVID-19, as well as other contagious illnesses, and still need to see your doctor? Telehealth is safe and easy — receive quality care from anywhere.

What has Fibromyalgia stolen from you?

Due to the variety of symptoms patients can report, Fibro can steal your quality of life. All of these symptoms can trigger the others, causing an endless loop of dysfunction.The good news for those with Fibro is that there are exciting new solutions.

5 ways to be a healthier parent for healthier kids

It is not just anecdotal – studies have shown that the mental health of children is closely connected to their parents’ mental health. A child’s healthy development depends on their parents—and other caregivers who act in the role of parents—who support th

The VA diagnosed you with PTSD, now what?

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, know that you have options outside of the VA, many at no charge to you. We offer clinical research studies, private practice support with physicians who are veterans and ketamine therapy.