We all encounter stress and anxiety during various times in our lives. From the demands and stress of college, work, and personal relationships—the list is endless—anxiety can creep up on us more frequently than we might prefer. Not only that, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between regular feelings of anxiety and a true anxiety disorder such as social anxiety disorder or even obsessive-compulsive disorder. That said, if anxiety is affecting you or someone you know, it is important to know the differences.

In general, anxiety is a simple response to a stressor. However, this isn’t always a bad thing.  Your brain inherently works to keep you alive and well, which means that anxiety can actually work in your favor. From motivating you to finish assignments or tasks, to the fight or flight response that keeps you safe when put into a dangerous situation, regular anxiety responses (in moderation) can, in fact, be good for you.  On the other end of the spectrum, true anxiety disorders involve much more intense and excessive anxiety, which can not only bring about debilitating symptoms, but can also lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Here are some key differences between regular anxiety and true anxiety disorders:


Normal anxiety usually reacts from a stressor: a test or job interview, a fight with a friend, etc.  Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, can lock you in a state of constant anxiety, while the source of stress can be difficult to pinpoint. Some people with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have a difficult time just getting through the day. Minor day-to-day tasks like driving to work or paying the bills can catalyze intense anxiety for people with generalized anxiety disorders.

Intensity and Length

When a person is struggling with an anxiety disorder, they produce intense and excessive emotional responses. That said, a person with an anxiety disorder might experience intense anxiety several weeks before an exam rather than experiencing symptoms the day of or right before the exam (as someone with a normal anxiety response may exhibit).  In sum, normal anxiety passes, while an anxiety disorder is often continuous.

Other symptoms

Uncontrolled anxiety and feelings of worry are not the only symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Dizziness, light-headedness, sweating, trembling, heart pounding, headaches, and nausea can also occur. One can feel trapped, speechless, unfocused, down on themselves, disconnected from reality, or as if they need to constantly “hide”.


Anxiety disorders can often interfere with one’s schoolwork, job, and/or daily life. People who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to avoid their normal activities and routines. Skipping class, missing tests, sudden absences from work, and/or avoiding anything and everything that could induce anxious feelings are common for people with true anxiety disorders.

If It’s Uncontrolled Anxiety

If you or someone you know is battling with overwhelming anxiety and can relate to some of the statements above—don’t wait—don’t be afraid to ask for help. Anxiety is simply part of being human. In fact, nearly 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, which means you aren’t alone.

On top of this, anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Millions are finding comfort and living out their lives to the fullest.  That said, we understand that diagnosing an anxiety disorder can be a daunting task at first, but in the end, what really matters is being you again. We truly care about your well-being and are always here to provide help and support.

See hope. See relief. See comfort.

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