Worry Versus Anxiety: Understanding the Difference

Worry and anxiety go hand in hand. Both are normal feelings experienced by everyone either occasionally or every day. But there are differences between the two and their differences have a significant impact on your health, mental wellness, and ability to enjoy your life.

Many of the people we help at MindSet struggle with worry and anxiety, so we put together this information to explain the difference. If you have any questions or you feel like you’re overwhelmed with worry or anxiety, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to call our office in San Diego, California.

Differences in control

While worry is a stepping stone to anxiety, there’s a fine line between the two that’s defined by your ability to control your feelings and reactions. When you’re worried, you can temporarily control it by engaging in another activity.

By comparison, anxiety automatically triggers your brain to release hormones that affect your entire body. This reaction, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, is hardwired into your body as a protective mechanism. Your body physically goes on high alert so you can face the threat or problem causing your anxiety.

A sharp contrast in symptoms

Worry may cause generalized tension in your body or make you feel on edge, but it seldom causes other symptoms. The biochemical response of anxiety leads to real physical symptoms, such as sweating, headaches, nausea, muscle twitches, and shortness of breath. In some cases, anxiety causes a panic attack.

Real concerns versus perceived threats

Worry is usually grounded in a real and specific concern. For example, your partner may be late getting home from work and they haven’t called. As a result, you worry they were in an accident.

Normal anxiety can also begin as you anticipate a real event. Unlike worry, however, excessive anxiety makes you fear potential events or perceived threats that may never happen or aren’t grounded in reality. This fuels an ongoing cycle of anxiety.

Length of time spent worrying or feeling anxious

Worry is time-limited and disappears as soon as your concern is solved. For example, your partner arrives home safe and sound, and you forget you were ever worried. 

Even normal, everyday anxiety doesn’t last long. You may be anxious over your first day on a new job but everything goes smoothly, so you no longer feel anxious. More importantly, your hormones return to their normal levels.

But anxiety can persist well beyond the original event. When this happens, your hormone levels remain high and your body stays on red alert, leading to long-term physical and mental problems.

When worry and anxiety turn into a disorder

Everyday anxiety becomes a mental health disorder when you have ongoing, persistent worry and fear. 

When anxiety rises to the level of an anxiety disorder, it pervades your life. An anxiety disorder makes you avoid the things you used to enjoy out of fear they’ll trigger more anxiety. It often leads to taking days away from work or affects your performance on the job.

Anxiety disorders also lead to changes in your brain functioning, causing abnormal brainwaves we can see when we perform an electroencephalogram (EEG). 

We specialize in personalized repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (PrTMS) because it restores the electrical activity in your neurons. And as your nerves return to their normal activity level, your anxiety symptoms start to diminish. 

If you struggle with excessive worry or anxiety, call MindSet or send a message online and we’ll promptly respond to talk with you about your treatment options.

Author
Kevin Murphy, MD Kevin Murphy, MD | PrTMS Dr. Murphy has co-authored several book chapters and many abstracts and peer-reviewed articles. His work at UCSD has appeared in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology, Translational Cancer Research, and Practical Radiation Oncology, among others. He is a frequent speaker at both national and international medical conferences, having over 100 invited lectures in 23 countries. More recently, Kevin Murphy, MD has gained noteriety as a pioneer in the emerging field of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and has invented a proprietary, personalized approach termed PrTMS®. Over the last few years, Dr. Murphy has helped thousands of individuals suffering from neurocognitive disorders in addition to Navy SEAL veterans who have an interest in improving sleep and maintaining high-level human performance. As a proud Navy Veteran he is proud to be working with the military on the first clinical studies to formally assess the effect of PrTMS on sleep, focus, reaction time, and other human performance metrics.

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