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WHAT IS ANXIETY & STRESS?

by Nicole van Heerden on July 07, 2020
House of Health - What is Anxiety & Stress?

What is Stress & Anxiety?

How many times a day do you say you are Stressed? Tired? Anxious? Overwhelmed?

Stress and Anxiety have become extremely prevalent in our daily lives and we often refer to these terms interchangeably. However, it is actually not entirely correct, as although these psychological responses appear similar, the biological impact differentiates them and are indeed very complex processes (Daviu, Bruchas, Moghaddam, Sandi & Beyeler, 2019

 

Okay, let’s start at the beginning by defining these terms: Stress is a response to a real or perceived threat that could challenge the body’s level of homeostasis (Daviu, Bruchas, Moghaddam, Sandi & Beyeler, 2019). This results in physiological and behavioural responses, think sweaty hands and an increased heart rate. There can be Systemic or Internal Stressors which result in physical changes to the body, which is different to the response of a perceived threat, also called a psychological stressor, which is where there is potential danger which results in a psychological and emotional response.

 

Stress due to a potential threat has coined the term “anticipation”. This term is critical when understanding the differences between stress an anxiety.

Anxiety is an emotional state caused by anticipation of a harmful situation with a low or potentially uncertain probability of occurrence (Daviu, Bruchas, Moghaddam, Sandi & Beyeler, 2019). It is important to know that anxiety in itself isn’t pathological, however it becomes maladaptive when it is sustained and is provoked by a non-threatening stimuli.

 

Seems simple right? Well it gets a little more complicated, as there are actually different types of stress and anxiety. I’m not going to go into a complex biological description of each type but to put it simply:

Stress is broken up into 3 different types (Ehrenfeld, 2018):

  1. Acute Stress: Acute stress prepares us for fight or flight, with a sudden onset and is generally short-term. You might feel sweaty, your heart racing, your chest might feel tight and believe it or not this can cause gut problems (we will discuss this in upcoming gut blogs). However, these symptoms are usually short-lived.
  2. Episodic Acute Stress: This is when you have short, reoccurring moments of acute stress. This is similar to a feeling of being overwhelmed. The symptoms are similar to acute; however, they occur more frequently.
  3. Chronic Stress: Chronic stress is ongoing or a prolonged state of stress and is the main cause of stress-related health problems.

Anxiety is divided into 2 types (Daviu, Bruchas, Moghaddam, Sandi & Beyeler, 2019):

  1. State Anxiety: This is when you become hypervigilant in anticipation of a stressor (this can be triggered by acute stress). The main purpose of state anxiety is to avoid potentially dangerous situations and it is important for consolidation of memory.
  2. Trait Anxiety: This is when an individual has a predisposition to be constantly anxious, it is called trait anxiety because it becomes a personality trait.

It is important to know that Sate and Trait anxiety are not mutually exclusive, in fact Daviu, Bruchas, Moghaddam, Sandi and Beyeler (2019) explain this concept as trait anxiety can increase the occurrence of state anxiety.

 

Hopefully you understand the differences between stress and anxiety and their various types. We hope you have a happy, healthy and stress free day! xxx

 

 

 

 

References

  • Daviu, N., Bruchas, M., Moghaddam, B., Sandi, C., & Beyeler, A. (2019). Neurobiological links

between stress and anxiety. Neurobiology Of Stress11, 100191. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100191

  • Ehrenfeld, T. (2018). The Three Types of Stress. Retrieved from

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/open-gently/201812/the-three-types-stress

 

DISCLAIMER: This blog post in no way aims to provide medical or psychological advice.It merely aims to provide some understanding of the stress and anxiety responses which occur in the body. The term “anxiety” in this article refers to the psychological and emotional response of feeling anxious, it is not to provide advice or to describe an anxiety disorder. This is based on the writers opinion and research.

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