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At first glance, it is difficult to recognise the difference between stress and anxiety. Both can lead to insomnia, fatigue, excessive worry, irritability, and impaired concentration. Even the physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, muscle tension and headaches appears the same in both stress and anxiety. These similar symptoms make it difficult to determine whether it is time for an extended vacation, or whether it’s time to get professional medical help.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress is your body’s response to a threat in any situation and is generally a short-term experience. It can have a positive or negative function. Positive stress is what kicks in if you have to make that impossible deadline. When the stress, however, causes insomnia, poor concentration and an inability to perform your daily tasks, it is negative.

Anxiety, in turn, is a persistent mental illness caused by stress. It doesn’t disappear when the stressful situation has passed, and it can cause significant impairment in your daily functioning.

Generalised anxiety disorder can be described as excessive anxiety and worry about many events and situations. This occurs more than often, for at least six months. The intensity of the anxiety and worries is out of proportion and will probably your functioning in the foreseen event.

How does anxiety feel?

If you recognise several of the following signs and symptoms, and it just won’t go away, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder:

  • Are you constantly tense, worried or nervous?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with your job, family or social obligations?
  • Are you constantly bothered by fears that you know are irrational, but you cannot shake it?
  • Do you believe that something terrible will happen if certain things are not done in a certain way?
  • Do you everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious?
  • Do you experience sudden, unexpected panic attacks that quickly makes your heart beat?
  • Do you feel like danger and catastrophe to threaten every corner?

How should I deal with my anxiety?

If you’re still not sure whether you need to speak to a psychiatrist or psychologist, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the symptoms of anxiety:

  • Be disciplined in your sleeping habits
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cultivate healthy eating habits
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Learn how to relax
  • Make peace with uncertainty

When should I get help?

Everyone experiences times of increased stress, which can sometimes become overwhelming. It is essential to know when to consult a licensed psychiatrist and psychologist. It’s time to get help when your stress becomes unmanageable and interfere symptoms of anxiety in your daily life.

How can anxiety be treated?

Fortunately, anxiety can be treated relatively easily with proper therapy:

Effective medications: Your psychiatrist will determine what type of medication you need, depending on your type of anxiety disorder and the severity thereof.

Psychotherapy: It’s also a good idea to visit a psychologist to help you process your anxiety disorder and learn to use techniques that can relieve the symptoms.

Types of anxiety disorders

  • General anxiety disorders: Common concerns and fears that affect your daily life
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: unwanted, repetitive thoughts or behaviours that seem to be impossible to control or stop.
  • Panic disorder: Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, as well as the fear of experiencing another attack.
  • Phobia: An exaggerated or unrealistic fear of a specific activity, situation or object that in fact poses little or no risk.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: An anxiety disorder triggered after a traumatic or life-threatening event.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: A crippling fear of being put in public embarrassment or being judged. Also known as social phobia.

Where can I get help?

Life Path Health’s  24-7 helpline can give advice on licensed doctors and therapists in your area. Tel: 072 7900 506

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