Many people confuse anxiety and worry, although there are differences between the two. You might think that worrying means you’re anxious, but that’s not the case. Anxiety is more intense and interferes in your life in ways that worrying doesn’t.
Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America show that almost 40 million people in the United States have an anxiety disorder. With this being the case, it’s a common occurrence, and understanding can help you handle it.
Knowing the differences between a disorder and worry can help you identify the issue. You’ll know if you’re experiencing normal feelings or if it’s become something more.
What is Worrying?
Worry is what occurs when you dwell on negative thinking. You might focus on uncertain outcomes or think about what could go wrong in a situation. Sometimes your worrisome thoughts can become repetitive and obsessive.
Worrying is a good thing, even if it makes you uncomfortable. It helps calm your mind by allowing you to problem-solve or take action.
What is Anxiety?
This disorder occurs in the mind and body and is often the product of too much worry and stress. It responds to a threat that hasn’t occurred and may not happen at all. You tell yourself something is off, or something bad will happen, even when you have no evidence.
When you have anxious thoughts, your adrenaline starts pumping, and your blood pressure increases. Your body enters a state of fight or flight, although there isn’t a threat. It’s a debilitating condition that can consume days, weeks, or months of your life.
The disorder causes a sinking or gnawing feeling, and sometimes the person doesn’t know why. They feel something is wrong and must do something, but they don’t know what. In these situations, the person doesn’t know what’s wrong to start fixing it.
Other issues that those with anxiety disorder experience include:
- Obsessing over details of the past
- Fretting over things that haven’t happened yet, and might not happen at all
- Feeling overwhelmed when your texts and phone calls go unanswered
- Apologizing even when you didn’t do anything wrong
- Not being able to sleep because you replay negative thoughts in your mind
- Feeling like you can’t get out of bed
- Needing certainty
- Overthinking and caring too much
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Unexplained agitation
- Feelings of panic, fear, or doom
- Heart palpitations
- Racing thoughts
- Muscle tension
- Numbness and tingling
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Dry mouth
Differences Between Anxiety and Worrying
Many people use the terms interchangeably, but it’s not accurate. They are different psychological states and affect your emotional and psychological health differently.
Anxiety involves worry, but they’re not the same. Here are some of the differences:
1. Worry is Based on Reality
When you worry, there’s a logical component to it. You experience a real danger and take steps to alleviate the situation. However, if you’re anxious, you overestimate the risk and struggle to cope or find a solution.
Anxious thoughts involve catastrophic thinking. You imagine the worst-case scenario rather than the realistic chances of something happening. Your mind might even create situations that bring on anxious feelings.
2. Worrying Leads to Problem Solving
When you worry, it triggers problem-solving for real issues. You begin to think about solutions and strategies rather than fixating on the negativity.
When you’re anxious, your thoughts and feelings don’t encourage problem-solving. Instead, you continually give in to your negative thoughts and can’t find a solution.
3. Worry Only Affects Your Mind
When you worry, it only takes place in your mind. However, anxiety affects your mind and body.
When you’re anxious, you might feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing. You can also experience nausea or digestive issues.
4. Worrying Doesn’t Impact Function
Anxiety makes it hard to focus and accomplish tasks, but worrying doesn’t affect your functioning. Anxious feelings impact your personal and professional life because it causes restlessness, discomfort, and distress. It can prevent you from handling responsibilities and interferes with relationships.
5. Worry Doesn’t Require Professional Treatment
When you’re worried, it doesn’t require treatment. Worry is part of your daily life, and you can control it without help. On the other hand, managing the disorder often requires professional help.
6. Worry is Specific
Being worried usually involves a specific situation. You’ll worry about how you can accomplish everything, trying to create a plan. Throughout the process, your worry is distinctive, and you can identify it.
Having a disorder is different because it’s more generalized. You can’t pinpoint the problem, making it impossible to come up with a solution. The vague feelings of discomfort will leave you feeling unsettled with no positive course of action.
7. Worry Comes and Goes
As a natural part of life, worry comes and goes as you encounter and resolve issues. It doesn’t affect your daily life and doesn’t usually linger for long. Anxious thoughts and feelings don’t go away, affecting your overall quality of life.
8. Worrying Causes Mild Physical Tension
Being worried can cause you to feel mild physical tension that eases once you find a solution. Anxiety leads to intense physical reactions that don’t go away as quickly. The physical reactions you experience include:
- Generalized tension throughout your body
- Tightness in your chest
9. Worry Doesn’t Involve Negative Mental Imagery
When you worry, it’s verbally focused and doesn’t involve mental imagery. Anxious thoughts lead to negative mental images and can cause cardiovascular response. Not only does the imagery cause physical symptoms throughout the body, but they also cause repetitive and unhelpful thoughts.
10. You Can Control Worrying
Worry is controllable, while anxiety isn’t as easy to control. When you worry, you can problem solve and come up with solutions to get through it. With anxious thoughts, you can’t control them or talk yourself out of them.
You can also distract yourself from worrying by focusing on other tasks. However, you can’t always distract yourself when anxious because the thoughts and feelings consume you.
What to do if You Think You’re Worrying Too Much or Experiencing Anxiety
If you think that you worry excessively, there are some things you can do to make it better. Some of these things include:
Turning Off the News
If you consume too many news stores, the negativity can impact your mental health. Limit your intake by setting a timer for how long you’ll read or watch the news. You can learn what’s happening in the world in just a few minutes without overwhelming yourself.
Mindfulness exercises are quick and can shift your mindset each day. Spend five to 10 minutes connecting with yourself to reduce the feelings.
Challenging Negative Thinking
If you experience frequent negative thoughts, you can learn to challenge them. Ask yourself if your thoughts are true or helpful. If you answer no to either of these things, you can reset your mind and focus on positivity instead.
Finding Ways to Decompress from Anxiety
Relaxing and doing things you enjoy can help you alleviate negative feelings. It can help you cope with uncomfortable or confusing emotions, allowing you to recharge and refocus.
Practicing Deep Breathing
Take slow deep breaths with longer exhalations to ease distracting thoughts. Focus on your breathing as you inhale and exhale, allowing you to shift your mindset.
Grounding to Manage Anxiety
You can practice grounding no matter where you are. Look around for the following:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
As you touch the four items, think about the textures. If you can’t smell anything, think about things you like to smell instead. Likewise, if there’s nothing to taste, think of a flavor that brings comfort.
Repeating Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations can help shift your mindset and focus on the essential things in your life. You can write positive mantras that are unique to your life, or you can use pre-created ones. Repeat the affirmations each morning or at night, depending on when your anxiety tends to take over.
Write Down Your Worries and Come Up with a Plan
When your worries start to spiral, write down your thoughts. Write anything that comes to mind, and focus on your obsessive thoughts. Once you write them down, brainstorm some steps you can take to overcome the issues.
Limit Stimulants to Ease Anxiety
Stimulants can worsen anxiety, so try to avoid it or limit your intake. Be mindful of how much sugar, alcohol, and caffeine you consume to ease the impact.
Listen to Music While You Clean Your Home
Distracting yourself doesn’t always work, but if you do it soon enough, you can prevent your worries from becoming anxious. Turn your music on and find something to clean or organize. It can help shift your mindset and overcome your spiraling thoughts.
Final Thoughts on Differences Between Anxiety and Worry
While anxiety involves worry, there are many differences between the two. When you take the time to figure out if you’re experiencing an anxiety disorder, you can make positive changes in your life. Treating it can help you live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Everyone experiences these feelings sometimes, but they shouldn’t consume your life. It all comes down to how you handle the feelings and if you find solutions to your problems.