The word anxiety is often misused in place of stress; while the two do have some similarities, they’re actually quite different. Stress can bring on anxiety, and they share some of the same symptoms such as your mind racing, adrenaline pumping and the feeling of panicking. So yes, while stress can be the root of anxiety, not all anxiety is caused because of stress.

With stress, you can ease the symptoms by simply removing yourself from a stressful situation by figuring out the root of the cause. Sometimes you can’t pinpoint the cause of anxiety.

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The Mighty’s community recently shared how the two are entirely different: 

“Anxietydoesn’t go away when the source of stress goes away. When I’m stressed, I feel better once the situation is dealt with. But when it’s anxiety, nothing can make me feel better. Even removing myself from the situation doesn’t help. I just have to let myself feel it.” — Nikki G


When I’m stressed, I acknowledge it and normally know what’s causing it. But when I’m anxious, I can’t think, and I get a sick feeling like I’m about to jump into a pool having no knowledge of how to swim and no life preserver in sight. My mind flicks from dark place to dark place, and I can’t block it out like I can block out stress. Stress feels like an emotional headache. Anxiety feels like I’m about to jump off the edge of a cliff and drown with no one to catch me at the bottom.” — Maxine B.


“When I’m anxious, I start to dissociate. I have a hard time concentrating on anything, and I start to feel like I’m having an out of body experience. If I’m just stressed, I will feel things like shaky, hot, heart pounding, etc. but when I’m super anxious, it’s hard for me to connect with my body at all.” — Rachel Be.


“Stress I can usually relieve by closing my eyes and taking ten deep breaths. Though when my anxiety is triggered, I begin to feel a tightness within my chest, as if instead of my heart pumping naturally, it feels like someone is reaching into my chest and compressing too much and releasing, but not releasing all the way. Even through breathing exercises, it will continue leaving me to ride it out. Eventually,  it ceases, but that is how I am able to determine the difference between experiencing stress or anxiety.” — Ricky R.


“Anxiety is a bubbling feeling of the thoughts in my head that won’t stop. A bubbling feeling so intense I can feel it in my heart beat, I can hear it in my ears, feel it in the shake of my hands and the sudden foreign feeling of being in my own skin. Stress is when I am fully aware of the cause, and can acknowledge that I am not responsible for the cause.” — Annabella R.

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“When I am just stressed, and the stressor is addressed and taken care of, I don’t feel scared or agitated anymore. When I am anxious, I attack the skin around my fingers, picking at them and chewing them. I bite and chew the inside if my lips and cheeks. I can become severely agitated and aggressive toward others with my words. I just can’t think and feel like I am drowning. Everything spins.” — Moon N.


“Simply put? Anxiety — I obsess over it, and my fight or flight response is too strong to move on from the thought. Stress — I can easily distract myself from it to calm down out of the stress.” — Reba E.


“Stressed is something you can feel building up before you snap. Anxiety is like driving, and all is fine, then hitting a brick wall going 70 m.p.h.” — Jessica B.


“Stress ebbs and flows, anxiety is constant.” — Katie F.

Do you need help?

If it’s only stress you’re suffering from, it’s important to seek out help if you find it’s hindering you from having a normal day. Attending therapy sessions to talk about it can help; they can help you figure out your triggers and what coping strategies might work for you.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older – or 18.1% of the population every year. There are two treatments for anxiety disorders: psychotherapy and medication. Alternatively, lifestyle changes can also make a positive impact.

When stress becomes unmanageable and/or anxiety interferes with your ability to carry out a normal day, it’s time to see your doctor.