• Theo

What's the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Anxiety is a word that is thrown around a lot these days and everybody seems to be suffering with it. Everybody experiences anxiety on different levels as it is a part of human nature. Without it, we wouldn’t survive! Anxiety tells us there is something wrong (a perceived threat) and then pumps our body with adrenaline so that we can either fight the danger or run from it. Sadly, not many of the things that trigger anxiety now need a physical response, but our brains don’t know that.


Anxiety symptoms include:

- Sweaty palms

- Restlessness

- Dry mouth

- Nausea

- Heart palpitations

- Struggling to breathe


Sound familiar? I’m going to assume they do, as most people experience anxiety more than once in their lives. There is a difference though between this and having an anxiety disorder. As somebody who has an anxiety disorder, it can be really frustrating when people claim to have an anxiety disorder when they don’t.


Having an anxiety disorder means that you have very severe anxiety in situations where you shouldn’t. It means that you are stopped doing the things you want to and need to do. The physical symptoms are the same but the way it impacts you is a lot more serious. 


Let me give you an example. You’re starting a new job and it’s your first day. You get up feeling sick so you don’t eat. You’re feeling shaky and you’ve got sweaty palms as you drive to your new place of work. As soon as you walk in, you struggle to get your words out properly and you feel a bit overwhelmed. As the day goes on though, you start to relax a bit and you manage to get through the day even though it was difficult. That’s anxiety.


Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

When you have an anxiety disorder, the symptoms feel very similar. However, there is one major difference. We’ll start from the point of going in to the building. So, you walk in and you feel very on edge. You go to your designated area. As you sit down, your mind fills with panic. You have an incredibly overpowering need to get out. You can’t think about anything else, you can’t do your job so you just have to get out. There is no clear reason why and it’s impossible to explain to somebody who hasn’t experienced it. At the end of it, you lose your job because you cannot guarantee to stay. That’s an anxiety disorder. 


Having anxiety is normal and it’s tough to deal with but you get through it. Having an anxiety disorder is more challenging as it stops you progressing in life. However, there are so many support networks available now where you can speak to people going through a similar thing. There are many options from the doctors so please, please, please, if you are struggling, do not suffer in silence. You’ll get through it and find a way that works for you.

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