Contrary to popular belief, stress and anxiety are two very different conditions. In these difficult and challenging times that every human being faces in the world today, we can say that we are living in the age of anxiety. Notice I didn’t stay stress.
With the financial crisis, millions losing their jobs and livelihoods, health, sanity, lives, security, and a constant threat of either war, terrorist attack and nature’s fury on a scale that we recently witnessed in Japan, it is no wonder stress, anxiety and more worryingly depression is on the increase.
So much are these three rooted and incorporated into our daily lives that a recent study conducted showed than more than 80% of ALL INLLNESES are or can be directly or indirectly linked to stress, anxiety or depression. Don’t take my word for it, ask your physician!
Let me attempt to break down the three and why it is important you know the difference between them. Who knows? Perhaps you aren’t depressed but are suffering from excessive stress, or excessive anxiety. Let us tackle Stress First.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Although every person endures stress and/or stressful situations at least once a day, it is the manner in which each of us deals with these situations that is different. Thus, Individuals are all different and perceive things differently. For example, *Anne may find the most mundane and simple tasks such as driving, cooking and cleaning very stressful while *Betty doesn’t. Still their friend *Mary who finds it a bit stressful, simply responds by becoming highly productive and in the end achieves good results.
Stress mainly comes from the pressures and demands that we as people go through in our day to day lives in our work or other situations. These pressures are also known as stresscausing factors / stressors. The stressors then put pressure on the mind and on the body.
HOW DOES STRESS WORK?
During a stressful situation or event, the body’s adrenal glands secrete hormones which activate our body’s defense mechanisms. This hormone is known as adrenaline. When we get an adrenaline rush, our hearts pound faster, our muscles tense, a rise of blood pressure, dilating of the pupils and an increased pulse rate.
These effects are entirely normal. In fact, if you don’t get such effects during stressful events, then you’re simply not human. However, it can lead to danger.
WHERE THE DANGER COMES IN
As earlier mentioned, stress is a vital and a natural ‘human’ effect. This is because stressors are all around us! The danger begins to manifest itself when there is an extended stay (that is, more than in necessary) of the adrenaline hormone. You see, an extended stay of adrenaline over a long period of time causes depression (trust me, being depressed, is where you don’t want to be) which in turn gives way to a rise in blood pressure (all the time) as well as other negative body changes and effects.
One of the negative effects of increased and prolonged stress is Anxiety. Anxiety can be described as an uneasy jittery feeling where fear overcomes all other emotions and is accompanied by worry ad apprehension. As is the case with stress, anxiety is quite normal, and actually serves as a defense mechanism /warning system against something or a situation. None of us can help but feel this from time to time for example before an exam or exam results or before a job interview. In these situations, mild anxiety can not only be a positive but extremely helpful and useful as well.
Much like its cousin stress, excessive anxiety is where the danger comes in (Didn’t your mum tell you too much of anything is bad?). It is excessive anxiety that is often associated with the depression condition as well as other serious conditions. Excessive Anxiety is considered abnormal/dangerous when present for long durations of time, even in the absence of stressors and when it begins to interfere with our normal daily activities.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
Anxiety mainly arises from different situations. Stress is obviously a major cause of anxiety and endless worry. I need not mention the obvious. There are however other causes of anxiety that perhaps you may not know about.
- Drugs (both recreational and medicinal) – These may lead to symptoms related to anxiety. Partaking in these drugs mainly cause side effects or withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit and then leads to excessive anxiety. Examples of these drugs include excessive alcohol, cold remedies, caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, ADHD medicines, diet pills, decongestants, cocaine and many more.
- A poor diet may also contribute to anxiety e.g. when a person lacks sufficient vitamin B12.
- Performance Anxiety – Pressure to perform or do tasks well or even get them done at all.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is developed after a traumatic event e.g. physical/sexual abuse, natural disasters and terrorist attacks. This is especially common in war veterans.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
So how would you know if you were suffering from excessive anxiety? What are the symptoms? If you have a combination of most of these symptoms below, then you are probably suffering from a bout of anxiety. They include:
· Dry Mouth
· Rapid heartbeat
· Shortness of breath
· Inability to concentrate
· Chest pains
· Fear of being ‘crazy’ or irrelevant.
· Panic attacks
· Depersonalization ( a feeling of ‘unrealness’ or not on control of your life)
Please remember that these symptoms by themselves are not an alarm bell but when they continually occur in the absence of stressful situations, then ‘’Houston, we have a problem’.
The good news is that stress anxiety and depression can all be managed and the excessive types can be cured of them.
SO HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM STRESSED, ANXIOUS OR DEPRESSE?
It may sometimes seem that the lines blur when it comes to define which condition of the three you have. To make it easier, I have compiled 9 questions under each condition for you to answer and find out where you lie if indeed you suffer from any of the three conditions. The quizzes are meant for the people who are suffer from these conditions excessively and may have to do something about it.(preferably contact a doctor or therapist).
THE STRESS TEST
- Do you worry constantly and cycle with negative self talk and thoughts?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you get mad or react easily?
- Do you have recurring neck pains and headaches?
- Do you grind your teeth all the time?
- Do you constantly feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed?
- Do you fuel stress with unhealthy eating habits, unhealthy drinking habits, and smoking, avoid yourself and life and constantly argue?
- Do small pleasures of life fail to satisfy you?
- Do you experience flashes of anger over minor issues or problems?
IF YOU HAVE ANSWERED YES TO MOST OF THESE QUESTIONS, THEN YOU ARE OVERLY STRESSED AND NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
THE ANXIETY TEST
Answer the following questions as truthfully as you can to find out if you are indeed suffering from excessive anxiety.
- Do you experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations or shaking while at rest?
- Do you constantly fear losing control or going crazy?
- Do you avoid social situations solely because of fear? (e.g. fear of people finding out something about you etc)
- Do you fear specific inanimate objects?
- Do you fear that you’ll find yourself in a place or a situation from ehich you won’t be able to escape?
- Do you have recurrent thoughts or images that refuse to go away or disappear?
- Do you feel compelled to perform certain acts repeatedly?
- Do you fear leaving home? (Like Adrian Monk’s brother or still leave in your parents house despite your age for no good reason)
- Do you persistently relive an upsetting event from you past?
IF YOU HAVE ANSWERED YES TO MOST OF THESE QUESTIONS, THEN YOU ARE PROBABLY SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOU SHOULD DO THE FOLLOWING TESTS AFTER MONITORING YOURSELF FOR TWO OR MORE WEEKS.
THE DEPRESSION TEST
Answer the following test below to find out if you are suffering from depression. Of the three, this is the worst conditions and its effects can be harmful. It is commonly referred to as a long illness manifested by presence of stress and anxiety over a long period of time. Again, monitor yourself for at least 2 weeks then answer the following questions.
- Are you constantly sad?
- Are you unmotivated to do the simplest of tasks like shower, clean up the house, make dinner etc?
- Do people often tell you that you overly irritable?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Do you feel isolated from family and friends even when they are around you?
- Have you lost interest in your favorite activities?
- Do you feel hopeless, worthless or guilty for no reason?
- Are you always tired and have trouble sleeping?
- Has your weight fluctuated significantly?
IF YOU HAVE ANSWERED YES TO FIVE OR MORE OF THESE QUESTIONS, YOU MIGHT BE SUFFERING FROM CLINICAL DEPRESSION. IT’S IMPORTANT TO SEEK OUT HELP FROM A PROFFESSIONAL (EITHER YOU DOCTOR/THERAPIST)