Are you feeling anxious, or is it anxiety?

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No one enjoys the feeling of anxiety.

I’ve certainly dealt with it myself, and so have the approximately 40 million others that live with an anxiety disorder every year.

What about you? Do you ever experience a racing heart?

Butterflies in the stomach?

Sweaty palms?

What you might not know is: These feelings can be totally normal. It’s not always a sign of clinical anxiety to feel anxious at times.

Who doesn’t feel a little jittery before a job interview?

I feel like this is a very important distinction to make as we work to break the stigma. I don’t want people with very normal emotions to worry that they have a debilitating disorder.

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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What is anxiety?

Mental health has come under the microscope in the last five or so years. People are paying more attention to it, which means certain disorders and problems are becoming more well known. Anxiety is perhaps the most common mental health issue out there. Many people suffer from anxiety, and it’s something that plagues your day-to-day life. 

As I mentioned earlier, about 40 million US adults live with anxiety in a given year.

The article linked above also says:

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Having said that, there have also been some misconceptions about mental health and anxiety. Some people will claim to have anxiety when they’re actually just anxious. This may seem like the same thing, but there are fundamental differences between the two. Anxiety is a mental health disorder while feeling anxious is more of a reaction to situations. 

feeling anxious

Using the example I stated earlier, it is very normal to feel anxious before a job interview. Here are some other situations when you might have an anxious feeling:

  • Wedding day
  • Long day of travel
  • Birth of a child
  • Court proceeding
  • Awaiting news from a loved one

Feeling anxious around these situations does not mean you have an anxiety condition.

If you’re confused, don’t be alarmed. It’s hard to get your head around, which is why this article will help you differentiate between the two and figure out what you should do to treat yourself. 

Anxiety is a long-term condition

Suffering from anxiety means that you are almost always on edge. Simple situations create intense nervous feelings for you. The thought of speaking to a cashier in a store is almost too much to bear. For me, it is sometimes making phone calls to schedule an appointment.

You will always be plagued by dark thoughts that make you feel incredibly nervous about lots of different things. Similarly, you will also experience side effects, like stomach pains, stress headaches, and lots of tension. If all of these things sound familiar to you, then you probably suffer from anxiety. 

So, what is the difference?

Conversely, being anxious is more of a short-term state. You can feel anxious in the lead up to a big exam. You feel anxious about going to meet someone for the first time. But, these feelings are usually only there for a short while. They don’t manifest for weeks before the situation, which tends to happen when you have anxiety. Everyone gets anxious about little things now and then – particularly if they’re new or scary experiences. 

This is a natural response to many situations. You can even feel anxious when doing something repeatedly, like speaking to someone on the phone. However, these feelings subside when the task is complete, and they only come around in the lead up to it. With anxiety, you feel nervous and on edge almost all the time. 

Treating anxiety and overcoming anxious feelings

It’s important to know if you have anxiety, as the treatment for it is different from if you just feel anxious. Typically, you should seek professional help for anxiety. Therapy, medication, and journaling are 3 of the best ways to help you.

Therapy

Places like Meridian Partners exist to provide expert counseling to those that need it. Talking about your issues is one of the best ways to work through them. Most insurances cover therapy sessions, and could possibly cover teletherapy, if the thought of meeting face to face is too much for you.

Medication

You may also get specific medication if your anxiety is really bad. This is super common, and nothing to be ashamed of. I have taken it in the past, and so lots of people I know. These medications can help alleviate your symptoms, and might help you get better sleep at night.

journal, feeling anxious
Click here to start journaling!

Journaling

I have found journaling to be very, very helpful in ridding yourself of some of those negative thoughts. You can really try a lot of different strategies. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Write down 3 things you are grateful for
  • Write down an intention for the day
  • Make a list of some things you like about yourself
  • Jot down some negative thoughts, and then write down positive counter-statements.
Download this free Journal Prompts PDF here

There is hope out there

By undergoing a range of treatments, you will soon calm the symptoms and fight back against this mental health disorder.

On the other hand, combatting anxious feelings is easier. Typically, it’s a case of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and gradually doing more of the things you get anxious about. You won’t need professional help as it’s more about getting over nerves than fighting an illness. 

Hopefully, this all makes sense to you. Everyone can be anxious, but not everyone suffers from anxiety. It’s important to differentiate between the two as you need to know how to treat the problem correctly. 

Do you live with anxiety? Or are you just anxious? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure you share this post if you found it helpful.

Remember: that anxious feeling might be totally normal! Hang in there.


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Related posts for feeling anxious:

How to challenge negative thought patterns

7 Interesting Facts About Anxiety

The benefits of journaling

What to expect at your first therapy appointment

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48 thoughts on “Are you feeling anxious, or is it anxiety?”

  1. I didn’t know that there is such a big difference between these two terms. Thanks for clarifying this for us!

    1. Well, that’s good at least. Mine, I at least know what triggers it, and can do things to cope too. Take care, and thanks for reading!

  2. I feel like I am just an anxious person by nature. It’s something I try to work on but it always in the there in the background.

    1. Same! I’ve been that way since grade school. At least now I have a better idea of how to manage it. Thanks for reading, and take care!

  3. This is a very informative post and an important one! Anxiety is very common and it’s so difficult to deal with if you don’t have resources available. I think I will try some of your journaling prompts as well!

  4. Even going to the grocery store now makes me feel anxious. I think it’s normal to feel anxious from time to time. Didn’t know all these facts about anxiety, though although I’ve heard of people who are suffering from anxiety disorder. Great post!

  5. Thanks. I’ve recently had this thing where I get upset and then I can’t breathe. It’s like my throat closes up. I’m wondering if that is some kind of anxiety attack. Maybe I should chat to a Dr.

    1. Definitely! I get the same way when I’m anxious. I would recommend making an appointment if possible. Thanks for reading, and I hope you feel better.

  6. This is very helpful. Thank you! After reading this, I definitely know now that I have anxiety and not just being anxious all the time.

  7. This is a really enlightening post – I had no clue that many people in the US lived with anxiety! I recently have been feeling different, quite nervous and unmotivated, etc, when it comes to broaching doing certain things and this has genuinely helped me establish that I’m just anxious – it must be due to the times we’re living in currently! x
    Marina Rosie x
    https://www.marinawriteslife.com/

    1. Definitely. So many people are so “off” because of all the changes in routine. Hang in there. There’s gotta be an end in sight!

  8. This is a brilliant post! It’s very important to differentiate feeling anxious and having anxiety. My ex had anxiety, pretty bad actually. And he did tell me about it but never what it was like or what sort of situations possibly triggered him. So, I never understood what anxiety was and I couldn’t recognize it when he was especially anxious. I really tried to support him and be there for him, but it all backfired. Since our breakup he’s treated his anxiety with drugs, and obviously that only makes it all much worse. I do wish I had understood what anxiety is back then, maybe he’d be better.

    1. Aww that’s tough. I’m sorry. Just try to realize that his emotions are his responsibility. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thank you for making this distinction. Sometimes I hate telling people the way I feel because they’ll say “Everyone is tired” or “Everyone gets nervous.” They don’t get what it’s like to live with this chronically. Thanks for being a voice for us experiencing anxiety disorders!

    1. You are very welcome! I’ve become very passionate about it because there are way too many people like me with high functioning anxiety who are struggling right now. I will keep it up for as long as I can 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  10. I really like how you dive into the difference here. As a therapist, I see so many people who say they “have anxiety” when in reality they have just been in some anxiety-provoking situations where they reacted like any other human would. Great read & very useful!

    1. Thanks! I appreciate the feedback from a medical professional standpoint. Keep up the hard work 🙂

  11. I know I do tend to panic during social situations. It’s not my favorite thing. I try to take deep breaths and remind myself that it’s not forever.

    I can understand the difference between being anxious and having anxiety!

    1. Yeah the whole forever thing helps me too. I make my husband tell me before hand what time we’re leaving. That’s a good compromise we’ve come up with. Thanks for reading!

  12. Anxiety is a bit of a sore subject for me at the moment. My anxiety levels go through the roof over things like having to make a phone call, needing to drive a car somewhere I don’t know, having to talk to someone I don’t know, going to any new place….and even smaller things like running late, that might mean dinner will be 30 minutes later than it usually is.

    But whenever I speak to a doctor, they look at my notes and just say, it’s your depression and that’s that…

    1. That sucks. I’m sorry. Anxiety definitely needs to be recognized. It can be like at the same time as your depression, but it’s not the same thing. People are terrible sometimes. Thanks for reading, and feel better.

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