The Difference Between Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder

This information does not constitute medical advice. Always consult a mental health professional if you are struggling with a mental health issue. Do not self-diagnose or try to “fix” mental health problems based on your own diagnosis.

If you are prone to worrying, you may have wondered at times if you have an anxiety disorder or if you simply suffer from everyday worry and anxiety every now and then.

Yes, worry is a defining trait of anxiety, but not everyone who worries suffers from an anxiety disorder.

There are key differences between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder.

If you have everyday anxiety, it is normal to feel nervous about a big upcoming event. Your anxiety is focused on a specific target, and your worry is temporary; after the event has passed, your tension will dissipate.

An anxiety disorder is a very different story. If you have an anxiety disorder, you worry about many things and for much of the day. With an anxiety disorder, the worry lingers. The feelings of anxiety are overwhelming, disrupt daily life, make it difficult to function, and have no apparent cause.

An anxiety disorder is a complex problem because not everyone with an anxiety disorder behaves like an “anxious” person. Each person displays their struggle and deals with their discomfort differently.

If you have an anxiety disorder, which is a mental health issue, the signs can be subtle, and the anxiety itself is not the only problem that needs to be fixed or eliminated. A medical professional needs to discover and understand the source of your chronic anxiety. The root cause of the anxiety disorder is the most important part of the treatment.

The next step is to decide how to manage your anxiety and to realize and accept that you can’t fix it overnight.

An anxiety disorder engages the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus, all of which are part of the fear response system, which controls your emotions and how you react to them.

If you are dealing with everyday anxiety, this type of worry develops in the pre-frontal cortex. Professionals consider worrying to be purely thinking. An anxiety disorder is something that is both cognitive and physical.

In other words, an anxiety disorder is as physical as it is mental, throwing the brain into a fight-or-flight response.

Understanding anxiety disorders is crucial if you or your loved ones struggle with an anxiety disorder. Take the time to learn about your condition, because there are still many myths about anxiety disorders and treatment options.

They key difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is the duration and frequency of one’s worry. While anxiety occurs over a shorter period of time and eventually fades, an anxiety disorder typically involves overwhelming and fairly constant worry about many things.