difference between stress and anxiety

We live in a fast-paced world where everything is at our fingertips. Our minds are cluttered with thoughts of what happened yesterday, what’s going to happen tomorrow, whose liking our pics on IG, if we can keep up our streaks on SnapChat, what we are going to cook for dinner, how we are going to pay the bills, did we remember to record our favorite show, who is picking up our kids from practice and so on… There are just so many things on our minds that it is no wonder we experience so much stress and anxiety. …but how much stress is too much and when is it time to seek help


Stress is your body’s reaction to a trigger and lasts only a short time. Stress can be both positive and negative. When stress kicks in and helps you make that deadline you were procrastinating, it’s positive. When stress results in insomnia, poor concentration, and impaired ability to do the things you normally do, it’s negative. Stress can negatively impact our bodies and lead to a host of health issues. Typically, stress is a short term response to an immediate threat. Once that threat or problem is removed, stress will decrease.

Signs & Symptoms of Stress

  • Frequent headaches
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Back and/or neck pain
  • Feeling light-headed, faint, or dizzy
  • Sweaty palms or feet
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent illness
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Excessive worry
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Having difficulty quieting the mind
  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Low energy
  • Loss of sexual desire


Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal – it can be completely debilitating. Anxiety, unlike stress, is a sustained mental health disorder that can be triggered by stress. Anxiety doesn’t fade into the distance once the threat is mediated. It hangs around for the long haul, and can cause significant impairment in a person’s life. Anxiety that sticks around and impairs your ability to live life to the fullest is also called Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Signs & Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Restlessness or feeling intense or on edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Psychosomatic symptoms: Headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, pins and needles
  • Physical symptoms: Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain
  • The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning

Diagnosis & Treatment of Anxiety

Let’s recap: stress=short term, anxiety=long term. Another key difference between stress and anxiety is the intensity of the anxiety or worry. Oftentimes, the intensity does not match the actual likelihood or impact of the worry. If you have been experiencing the above symptoms more days than not over the last six months, talk therapy can help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidenced-based treatment, proven to reduce anxiety. It is said to be effective both alone and when used in conjunction with medication. Lifestyle changes such as good sleep hygiene, daily exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and choosing nutrient-dense foods can also help decrease anxiety at home.

Our licensed clinicians specialize in the treatment of anxiety and in the reduction of stress. If your stress or anxiety seems out of control, get started today with our online CBT experts.

Life can be better, we can help.