What's the Difference
- Stress and Anxiety Disorder have common symptoms:
- Emotionally upset
- Physiological arousal (heart rate up)
- Mental distress (oh no)
However, Stress and Anxiety Disorders have a different focus:
- Excessive or chronic stress is more about external events
- The focus of an anxiety disorder is more internal
For example, someone who suffers from chronic stress may be an over-responsible caretaker for his family and at work. His family and boss want him to "back off" with being a "human doing" and although he promises to do so, his promises are short lived.
Someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder may have a phobia of dogs. In this case the individual would have the same anxiety response to all dogs and would avoid them. The person knows that their fear of their friend's miniature poodle is unrealistic but still avoids the dog. The anxiety symptoms experienced around possible contact with the small dog would be more of an internal event rather than one precipitated by external factors.
Chronic Stress and Anxiety Disorders need different interventions. For someone with a stress disorder, such as the over-responsible caretaker above, therapy would include:
- Individual, to help him gain awareness, acceptance and willingness to modify his stress related behaviors
- Couple, family and his employer so they stop enabling him to maintain his stress related behaviors
The key feature of anxiety disorders is that they seem to have a life of their own and are quite irrational. Someone who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or excessive worry, means they worry about everything and anything. They realize the worries are irrational but non-the-less they cannot stop worrying. Treatment will include:
- Assist the individual to deal with the stress factors that help maintain the worry. This by itself will not enable the individual to successfully treat the disorder
- What is required is to assist the individual to face his/her anxiety directly through EXPOSURE. That is, identify face and modify the cognitions, behaviors and emotional components that are maintaining the worry.
- Consult with your physician
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