The Difference Between Worry, Stress, and Anxiety

The Difference Between Worry Stress And Anxiety

The Difference Between Worry Stress And Anxiety

Humans experience many different types of emotions every day when confronted with happy or sad news, challenging situations, scary accidents, etc. These emotions are sometimes so strong that define who we are. Probably, you have heard this sentence from people around you that “this guy gets excited very fast”, “That woman gets so frustrated with the first sign of trouble”, “your friends get confused as soon as he confronts a new situation”. Yes, emotions are good indicators of our personality.

Among all different types of emotions, worry, stress, and anxiety are probably the most common ones. From the evolutionary standpoint, all emotions have been evolved inside each one of us to minimize the risk of putting ourselves in a dangerous situation or losing something very valuable to us. they, in fact, are protecting us from failure and malfunctioning. Yes, you heard me! They are positive to some extent!

The Difference Between Worry, Stress, and Anxiety

However, they become a problem as soon as you lose control over them. Let me give you an example. You might have a very important exam at the end of the month. without experiencing worry, stress, or anxiety, you probably wouldn’t try as hard as enough to pass your exam. They push you to go ahead and plan for the exam.

They energize you when it is 2 am so you could continue studying. However, there is a delicate balance here. If you get worried, stressed, and anxious more than enough, they will become your worst enemy because you somehow get paralyzed by them.

In this article, we are talking about the positive and negative sides of worry, stress, and anxiety. However, the more important issue is to be able to distinguish the difference between them. Or, are there any differences anyway? When we feel them, it is hard which one we are experiencing but it wouldn’t be the worst idea if we try to understand our behaviour by tapping into the differences between them. So, let’s get started.

What Is Worry?

What Is Worry?

Worry is one of the most common emotions that humans experience every several hours. Worry happens when your mind is busy with negative thoughts, probabilistic outcomes, and predicting bad events shortly. Perhaps, you will understand these situations if I give you some examples.

You are considered worried if you have negative thoughts about yourself. You go to the bank and always assume that the banker doesn’t like your voice, cloth, face, or whatever. Or, it will be a source of worry if you are constantly waiting for something but you are not sure about whether it is satisfactory. For example, you are an English teacher who tries so hard but is always worried that the students haven’t understood anything.

Finally, worry can be in the form of negative predictions about your life. For instance, even though you haven’t had even one single holiday and worked for the last two years very hard to get the promotion you have been waiting for, something says you are not going to get it. As you can see, there are certain features associated with worry:

Worry is repetitive:

Worry is repetitive: Worry doesn’t leave you alone and keeps annoying you throughout the day. It might come to you while you are eating, reading, or studying. So, you have to get used to confronting it constantly.

Worry is an obsessive thought

Worry is an obsessive thought: this means that you always judge your thoughts negatively. Marriage? It will be a disaster! Work? I am not going to find it. University? I am not good enough to get accepted, etc.

What Is The Underlying Mechanism Related To Worry?

as we said, worry can be positive in our lives. Scientists believe that worry is the result of an unpleasant or uncertain situation. When we are experiencing such issues in our lives, worry will help us stay calm and try to find a solution. For example, when you don’t have enough money to support your child at the university or your wife constantly talks to you angrily, you get worried.

At first, you might think you are not able to do anything about them. However, step by step, you will get closer to a solution. Therefore, one of the most important benefits of worry is that it forces people to have a problem-solving action to get rid of an uncertain or unpleasant situation. But, worry is not always good! When worry becomes negative as soon as it gives you the power of rational thinking.

If you are facing a dilemma, you will start getting worried about that. So far, so good! However, if the worry doesn’t let you find a solution for it, it becomes poisonous and makes you numb. This is what we should avoid. If you are always worried, you need to know the tactics invented by experts and scientists which help you act more firmly when facing worry. We will talk about these tactics in the following sections.

What Is Stress?

What Is Stress?

Stress is very similar to worry. However, one big difference is that stress is closely affiliated with an external event in your life. We have stress and stressor. A stressor is an environmental situation in which you don’t feel comfortable. As a result, you will get stressed. When you have two deadlines at the end of the week and you haven’t finished any of them, you are stressed. Or, when you have to take a scary medical test tomorrow, you will be stressed as you cannot control this event.

What Is The Underlying Stress Mechanism?

What Is The Underlying Stress Mechanism?

Let see how stress works. Well, we get stressed when the level of adrenaline and cortisol go up in our blood. In the past, we used to experience stress in threatening situations like hearing a wild animal in the bushes, out smelling fire somewhere close to our shelter. When stressful situations emerge, our limbic system starts releasing adrenaline and cortisol into our bodies.

Then, we might experience a rapid heart rate, clammy palms, and shallow breath. Here, it is important to know two different types of stress. The first one is called acute stress. This type of stress is helpful and positive because it pushes you to resolve the threat before it is too late. For example, you are about to sign a very important contract but haven’t prepared the contract printed.

With the acute stress in your body, you will manage to accurately write the contract down and have it done a few minutes before your boss arrives. Or, you have a very important meeting at 6:30 pm but have got stuck in the traffic. Thanks to the acute stress you will concentrate and drive faster so you could make your appointment. So, it is obvious that acute stress is good for us.

However, there is another type of stress called chronic stress which acts the opposite of acute one. When you are experiencing chronic stress, it means that you cannot get away from the fight-or-flight situation. Fight-or-flight situations correspond to the moments in our lives when we have to decide to confront something and avoid it. For example, what should we do with a bossy colleague? Or, what should we do with a constant lack of financial support?

In these situations, you cannot make up your mind to act and as a result, you get stressed. For example, in the case of a bossy colleague, you don’t know to ask him politely not to do that, or just stop working with him. As you can imagine, chronic stress can negatively impact your health meaning to say it is associated with health conditions such as digestive issues, an increased risk of heart disease, and weakening of the immune system. Again, we will talk about the methods by which you can get relaxed and fight back.

What Is Anxiety?

What Is Anxiety?

to understand what anxiety is, we have to review our definition of stress and worry. We said earlier that worry is related to what is happening in our mind and stress is a physiological reaction to an external event. In a way, we experience worry in our minds and stress in our bodies. Now, anxiety is about both! So, it is safe to say that anxiety is a combination of stress and worry because we feel it in our minds and body.

What Is The Underlying Anxiety Mechanism?

What Is The Underlying Anxiety Mechanism?

Although it is very hard to separate anxiety from stress and worry, I am going to do my best. Here is one of the most important differences between anxiety and stress. By knowing this, you will be able to understand the underlying mechanism associated with anxiety. How does stress work? You are walking on the street and suddenly you see a wild dog chasing after you.

There is a threat (dog) and because of that, you get stressed. That's normal, isn't it? Now, when you are experiencing anxiety it looks as if you are influenced by an environmental event (like a dog chasing you), however, in reality, there is no threat (no dog on the street). We can say anxiety is a response to a false alarm. Perhaps, the dog that you have seen, isn’t a dog. It is just a shadow that has made you believe there is a wild animal there.

Here is another classic example of anxiety. You say hello to your boss in the hallway but he/she gives you an off look. Then, you will start thinking about the worst-case scenarios. My boss hates me! Probably, I have done something very bad and he/she is mad at me! Probably, I am going to get fired by the afternoon!

All these reactions mean that you are experiencing anxiety. However, when you think about it a bit later, you would realize that the boss might haven’t noticed you, or he/she hasn’t given any off look but you have imagined that he/she did. You reacted badly to something false! That's exactly what is anxiety is all about.

What Other Distinguishing Characters Can Be Attributed To Anxiety And Worry?

What Other Distinguishing Characters Can Be Attributed To Anxiety And Worry?

Well, we talked about worry, stress, and anxiety very briefly. However, here, we are going to caption some other differences for you. With thousands of articles that are related to this topic, it will be hard to present the differences in detail but we will try to make it more clear.

  • We already talked about this difference. When you are anxious, you are understanding it with your body and mind. It means you might feel bad physically too. Nausea, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome are associated with anxiety. In contrast, worry deals with our minds. It is something happening internally.
  • Another interesting difference between worry and anxiety is that worry is usually very specific but anxiety cannot be attributed to any event. Anxiety is more generalized. Let me give you an example. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children had to stay at home and participate in online classes. As a parent, you might have got worried that you cannot handle the situation since you have only one computer and your children don’t make it easy either. Here, we say the parent is worried because it is a specific situation. However, when somebody is anxious and you ask him/her why are you so anxious? He/she might not be able to exactly say what's wrong with him/her.
  • Worry is based on reality while anxiety isn't. What does this mean? Let's get back to the COVID-19 pandemic example. We know that there is a chance that we get the virus. So, we become worried and try to do something about it. Washing hands, wearing the mask, and getting vaccinated are some tasks that remove away our worry. So, we are positively worried. However, anxiety is the result of the over or underestimation of a crisis. For example, it is anxiety when you start thinking that even with washing hands, wearing the mask, and getting vaccinated, you will get the virus! This is an overestimation of the current situation and that's why we call it anxiety.
  • Worry is temporary because it deals with real situations in our lives. As soon as that event or occurrence fades away, you don’t have the feeling of worry. This is not true with anxiety though as it might last much longer.
  • Finally, we can say that worry doesn’t impair function but anxiety does. It means that anxiety is capable of making you physically and mentally sick.

While I was searching on the internet, I came across another amazing article that tries to explain the differences between worry, stress, and anxiety in a simpler term. So, we are going to again highlight the differences but in another format.

The Main Differences Between Worry, Stress, And Anxiety

The Main Differences Between Worry, Stress, And Anxiety

  • Let’s start with anxiety. According to the article, anxiety has three parts including physical, cognitive, and emotional parts. In the physical parts, your body gets sensitive to stress. In the cognitive part, your mind will be surrounded by worrying thoughts. And, finally, in the emotional part, you show some behaviours which are directly influenced by worrying thoughts. It is vital to know that there is a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. Feeling anxious is a normal part of everybody's life. Even the happiest and richest people have experienced it thousands of times. However, anxiety disorder is related to some specific chronic emotional and physical symptoms. Some common anxiety disorders are insomnia, irritability, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, skin rashes, stomach upsets, expecting danger, feelings of dread, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, racing heart, and finally inability to concentrate.
  • Stress can lead to all kinds of physical problems similar to anxiety issues. Examples of stress which can cause physical damages are divorce, legal issues, abuse, death of a loved one, and work conflict. As we said earlier, stress can be good or exciting. Marriage, vacation, retirement, playing sports, becoming a parent, and moving to a new house are stressful but from a good kind.
  • Worry! We can put all the negative thoughts from the abovementioned stressors in the category of worries. Worry is similar to the emotional and cognitive parts of anxiety. If you keep being worried for a long period like six months, you will be physically hurt too. Like stress, worries can be sometimes good because they help you fix unexpected problems.

Tips For People Who Are Worried A Lot

Now, what should we do about worry, stress, and anxiety? The challenging issues raise daily and we have to be prepared. Here is a shortlist of what you need to do to stop being worried, stressed, and anxious.

How To Fight Against Worries

How To Fight Against Worries

There are three methods you can apply to get rid of worries temporarily. The first thing is to give yourself a worry budget. It means that set a time for yourself and when it comes you are free to think about worries in your life. For example, from 1 pm to 1:30 pm, think about the issues that bother you but forget about them right after.

The second action you can do is to start doing something about your worries. If you notice that something is worrying you, roll up your sleeves and try to fix the source of worry. And, the third one which has worked for me greatly! Write down your worries. Don’t let them go to your heart and be a constant source of annoyance. Write them down and have a look but don’t focus on them.

How To Fight Against Stress?

How To Fight Against Stress?

When you are stressed, your body is full of adrenaline and cortisol. If you get to exercise a bit, you can recover from that. Adrenaline and cortisol will go down as soon as you start getting active a little bit. The next you can do is set down and determine your limitations. I mean, you might be stressed because of something you could have done something about. If this is the case, go ahead and fix it.

However, if the source of your stress is something beyond your power, just deal with it! There is nothing worse than getting stressed by something that you cannot control. Finally, having stress is not a competition. So, you should not expect people to perceive stresses similarly. Mild stress for you could be a huge obstacle for the other or vice versa.

How To Fight Against Anxiety?

How To Fight Against Anxiety?

We know that anxiety could be a physiological phenomenon which means you have to avoid the stimulants such as sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. So, don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol. Also, keep your eyes on the amount of sugar intake. The anxiety loop can be broken down by focusing on something else, for example, wiggling your toes. Other activities such as listening to music, doing jump rope for 10 minutes, playing video games, etc. can distract you from anxiety.


Stress, worries, and anxiety are the most common issues of our modern life. Although we are living in the modern age where it is easier to live than several hundred years ago, we are facing new challenges as well. From the moment we get out of our bed, stress, anxiety, and worry could strike us hard.

So, no matter how wealthy or healthy we are, we have to be equipped against them. And, the first step is to know them very well. Many people think that stress, worry, and anxiety are the same things. However, they are different in terms of their underlying mechanism and sources. This article was an attempt to distinguish the differences.

We learned that worry usually deals with your mental state which means your mind is busy with some negative thoughts. We also understood that stress can be good like acute stress and bad like chronic stress. In contrast to worry, stress is usually a response to an environmental factor. And, anxiety, to put it simply, is a combination of worry and stress. We defined them in detail and then offered a few solutions to keep their disadvantages at the minimum level.

I trust you enjoyed this article about The Difference Between Worry Stress And Anxiety. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly.




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