Is It Anxiety Or Am I Just Stressed
Stress and anxiety can feel very similar, and at times the two go hand in hand. Anxiety causes stress, and stress can trigger anxiety.
Both stress and anxiety are normal parts of life, and when they’re present in moderate levels, you can adapt to them or deal with them by changing negative life circumstances. Stress and anxiety can keep you aware of and alert to risks and give you the energy to make the adjustments that life requires.
But stress and anxiety can both become chronic and harmful to your health. If you have anxious, worried, fearful thoughts that persist on a day-to-day basis for at least 6 months and that interfere with your work, your social relationships, or your ability to enjoy your favourite hobbies, you may have an anxiety disorder.
What most distinguishes anxiety from stress is that anxiety comes with excessive, persistent worry and fear of what might happen. Another difference is that, when you’re stressed, you can usually pinpoint what’s causing your stress – like work, relationships, or money issues. They are often short-term and easily recognized. With anxiety, you may not know where it is coming from. It can feel like it’s coming from nowhere and defy your attempts to rationalize it.
How Is Stress Diagnosed
Stress is subjective not measurable with tests. Only the person experiencing it can determine whether it’s present and how severe it feels. A healthcare provider may use questionnaires to understand your stress and how it affects your life.
If you have chronic stress, your healthcare provider can evaluate symptoms that result from stress. For example, high blood pressure can be diagnosed and treated.
Anxiety Can Also Be A Problem
While its pretty clear that anxiety is normal and even beneficial, for many people, it becomes a problem. The main difference between normal anxiety and problematic anxiety is between the source and the intensity of the experience.
Normal anxiety is intermittent and is expected based on certain events or situations.
Problem anxiety, on the other hand, tends to be chronic and irrational, and it interferes with many life functions. Avoidance behavior, incessant worry, and concentration and memory problems may all stem from problem anxiety.
These symptoms may be so intense that they cause family, work, and social difficulties.
The components of problem anxiety include the physical responses to the anxiety , distorted thoughts that become a source of excessive worry, and behavioral changes affecting the usual way a person lives life and interacts with others. Problem anxiety may lead to or reflect an anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder , for example, is defined as “the presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive,” along with physical and cognitive symptoms of anxiety, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition published by the American Psychiatric Association.
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Why Do Anxiety Attacks Cause Heart Attack
Panic attacks tend to cause a chain reaction in the body that triggers many of these physical symptoms. Some of these reactions include:
- Hyperventilation Poor breathing can cause chest pains, shortness of breath, etc. It can also lead to lightheadedness and muscle weakness.
- Adrenaline The anxiety from a panic attack leads to an adrenaline rush, causing rapid heartbeat. Like hyperventilation, it can cause tingling in the extremities and other heart attack-like symptoms.
- Hyper-sensitivity Another issues is known as hypersensitivity. It’s when the person experiences a lesser symptom more than someone without hypersensitivity would experience. For example, a small amount of chest pain might physically feel more severe, when any other person would shrug it off.
In addition, physical stress can cause a host of problems, like memory loss, indigestion, and more, and these can contribute to the heart attack experience in their own way.
Heart Attack Or Anxiety
It feels like your heart is getting squeezed. You can’t get a deep breath. You get chest pains. You feel weak. You genuinely feel as though you’re about to die.
Then it all goes away.
What happened? Many people worry they suffered from a heart attack. But what you may have suffered from is a panic attack. Don’t let the name fool you – panic attacks cause very real physical symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack, yet in general, nothing is wrong with your heart.
Why are these anxiety attacks so powerful and how can they be stopped? We’ll explore these anxiety attacks below.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may experience any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself , lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
A Patient’s Anxiety Or Heart Disease
One patient I saw, who was over age 70, had a lifelong history of anxiety and panic attacks. She’d stopped leaving her home out of fear of another attack after she’d tried multiple anxiety medications without benefit. But when I saw her, we found that each episode of her anxiety was caused by a rapid heart rhythm. It was easily corrected by a simple procedure called an ablation.
Shortly after the ablation, she attended a close relative’s wedding free of anxiety. This was the first time she’d participated in a large family activity in nearly 40 years.
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The Effects Of Chronic Stress
Your nervous system isnt very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If youre super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if youre facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.
If you tend to get stressed out frequently, like many of us in todays demanding world, your body may exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
Clues That Indicate Abnormal Heart Rhythms
In my clinic, I’m often faced with two possibilities:
- Did anxiety cause the rapid heart rate?
- Did the rapid heart rate cause anxiety?
Here are some clues:
1. Symptom pattern This is the most straightforward clue. If anxiety makes your heart race, then something causes stressful feelings that are followed by an elevated heart rate. But if your heart is causing the anxiety, then heart palpitations or a racing heart comes first, followed by anxiety. Sometimes the racing heart causes lightheadedness or chest discomfort, and anxiety escalates.
2. Passing out or seizure This raises my concern about an abnormal heart rhythm. Anxiety disorders or panic attacks rarely cause you to pass out. You might pass out when having blood drawn or experiencing something unsettling. But if you have no warning signs before passing out, the risk of a heart problem increases. Many people feel lightheaded or dizzy if they stand up quickly but people rarely pass out while seated, standing, or during an activity. If you’ve ever passed out while exercising or experienced a seizure, you should see a heart specialist.
3. Hyperventilating When you’re anxious or panicking, you may hyperventilate. This can cause numbness and tingling in the tips of your fingers on both hands, and around your mouth. Usually, anxiety causes this hyperventilation. But if you also feel lightheaded or faint, your blood pressure may be falling, indicating an abnormal heart rhythm.
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How To Handle Shortness Of Breath From Anxiety
When trying to get yourself out of an anxious spiral, McKee recommends using relaxation techniques like deep diaphragmatic breathing and engaging in distractions thatll occupy your mind such as crossword puzzles, mental exercises like counting backward from 100, or even a video game or exercise. Here are some great tips for making a panic attack more bearable, which can help with non-panic anxiety too.
McKee also urges people with health anxiety to stop reading or watching news related to the new coronavirus, or, at the very least, to significantly limit news consumption. And make sure youre only looking at news from accurate sources.
If youre wondering how Im personally keeping it together, its thanks to online therapy, the power of distraction, and forcing myself to do a few self-care acts every day. Physically moving, whether its doing an at-home barre workout or going for a quick skateboard ride up and down the street, has been really beneficial for me. My logic is, If I can do this exercise without collapsing, my lungs are probably fine.
Connecting with people in the same shoes as me, like Denise and Millie, has been extremely comforting throughout this journey. It helps to know there are people out there having the exact thoughts that I am. If theres anything Ive learned from this anxiety-filled pandemic experience, its that Im not alone. And if youre feeling this way too, neither are you.
What Can I Do To Manage My Symptoms
You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Selfcare is how you take care of your diet, sleep, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling.
Making small lifestyle changes can improve your wellbeing and can help your recovery.
Routine helps many people with their mental wellbeing. It will help to give a structure to your day and may give you a sense of purpose. This could be a simple routine such as eating at the same time each day, going to bed at the same time each day and buying food once per week.
Breathing exercises can help to calm you when you are feeling anxious. Or having a panic attack. You will get the most benefit if you do them regularly, as part of your daily routine.
There is more information about breathing exercises in the further reading section at the bottom of this page.
You could join a support group. A support group is where people come together to share information, experiences and give each other support.
You might be able to find a local group by searching online. The charity Bipolar UK have an online support group. They also have face to face support groups in some areas of the country. Their contact details are in the useful contacts at the bottom of this page.
Rethink Mental Illness have support groups in some areas. You can find out what is available in your area if you follow this link:
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Anxiety Attacks And Severity
What makes anxiety attacks unique is that even though they are a mental health issue, it is often the physical symptoms that get the most attention, This is what those without anxiety often struggle to understand. Anxiety attacks cause intense physical symptoms that mimic serious health disorders. Symptoms include:
- Chest pains
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
- Rapid heartbeat/heart palpitations
In many ways, anxiety attacks are similar to heart attacks. There may be other unusual issues as well, such as trouble with your vision, your teeth, your muscles, your nerves, and more. For example, some people experience weird jolts, others experience blurry vision, others experience tooth pain or hear unexplained noises.
Not all anxiety attacks are the same, but they all tend to be very physical and result in a feeling like something is terribly wrong.
What makes anxiety attacks worse is that they cause other symptoms that exacerbate the physical problems. One of the symptoms of anxiety attacks is this incredibly intense feeling of doom – as though something horrific is about to happen. That is actually a symptom of anxiety attacks, not just a response to the physical sensations, but when combined with the physical symptoms it can make a person convinced that they are about to suffer from something terrible.
Anxiety attacks also have other frightening psychological symptoms as well, such as:
How Can I Tell If I Have Ocd Or An Anxiety Disorder
You can differentiate OCD from anxiety disorders by the presence of obsessions and compulsive behaviors. Both can cause a significant amount of distress and get in the way of important daily activities, such as working and going to school.
For example, if you have OCD, you may have a fear of contamination, so you wash your hands every time you touch something new. Or you may fear that someone might get harmed because you werent careful, so you count to a safe number when doing tasks.
These types of behaviors and thought patterns arent typically present in anxiety disorders.
A trained therapist can diagnose your condition correctly and prescribe the best treatment plan for you.
If you want to read more, you can check out this article in which mental health advocate Sam Dylan Finch talks about the differences between OCD and GAD.
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When To Talk To Your Doctor
If you believe your anxiety is a problem, it is important to talk to your doctor. Because women tend to experience anxiety symptoms more frequently than men, experts now recommend that all women and girls aged 13 and older be screened for anxiety disorders during routine health screenings. Early detection and intervention is important since anxiety may grow worse over time if left untreated.
Excessive anxiety can be caused by a number of medical and psychological conditions. Problem anxiety has also been indicated in a variety of physical illnesses, such as heart disease, stomach problems, and pain. But, the best reason to talk to your doctor is that anxiety is controllable, and its complications are avoidable with treatment.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Anxiety Symptoms That Might Point To A Disorder
Everyone can expect to have the occasional bout of anxietymaybe you get nervous before an interview or a first datebut sometimes, that anxiety doesn’t subside, which may indicate an anxiety disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health , there are a few different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related anxiety disorders, but they all hinge on one important aspect: when overwhelming feelings of worry or fear impinge on a person’s daily life.
Researchers believe that anxiety disorders can stem from both genetic and environmental factors, and these anxiety disorders are typically treated through a variety of interventions, including psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, according to the NIMH.
While anxiety disorders are often hard to pinpointand often benefit from a correct diagnosis from a mental health professionalthere are some signs and symptoms that are common among those with most types of anxiety disorders. Here’s what you need to know, and including when you should seek professional help.
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The Reality Of Living With Anxiety In The Age Of The New Coronavirus
For people who have health anxiety, knowledge isnt necessarily power. Even though I rationally know anxiety is probably causing my symptoms, I still obsess over them.
often scan themselves and go back to the symptom that they had been tracking, says McKee. Theres research finding that this intensifies the actual sensation. Examining it makes it feel worse.
Yet it feels impossible to not examine it. Even though the World Health Organization has been extremely clear that you cant know if you have the new coronavirus by doing a home test of your breathingand that attempting this can be dangerousI still find myself trying it out, just to see if I can. If Im feeling really nervous, I breathe into the peak flow meter I ordered at the start of all of this to make sure I get a normal reading.
Hes right. I do take my oxygen measurement and temperature over and over again, as if theres going to be a major change from the last time. Im not the only one. Denise H., 43, who has had health anxiety for years, has also been constantly checking her temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and breaths per minute, she says.
Then theres the fact that, according to McKee, some people with health anxiety completely avoid the doctor for fear of learning what horrible thing might actually be wrong with them. If thats true for you, while the advice to call a doctor to discuss your symptoms is valid, it can be really hard to actually do.
So what should you do instead?