Is it ANXIETY OR WORRY? Understand the difference

According to mental health statistics, 1 out 5 Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any one year and 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Reports indicate that anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses having a huge impact on people’s lives and that in any single year, over 2 million Australian adults have anxiety compared to approximately 1 million with depression. However, it is important to distinguish anxiety from worry and to know when your feelings and thoughts are affecting your life to a point that you need to seek help. That is why we need to discuss the differences between general worrying/stress compared to the more significant and enduring impacts of anxiety causing more concern and distress.

Definition of Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

Definition of Worry: feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems

As you can see with the above tables, the main differences between anxiety and worry include the impact on daily functioning, the duration and intensity, general issues versus specific issues and the ability to manage the unwanted thoughts and feelings. Knowing these differences can help you decide whether what you’re worrying about is normal or if you require treatment in the form of therapy and/or medication. Ask yourself, is what you’re feeling in your body, thinking in your mind and how you’re behaving normal or is it getting in the way of living your life? Some anxiety is helpful for us as it is a survival instinct. However, too much worrying and anxiety is not helpful and impacts on our daily functioning.

There are treatments for anxiety. It is important to remember that many things you are anxious about are learned and therefore you have the ability to unlearn these distorted and maladaptive behaviours.

Where to get Help/Information:

Treatments for Anxiety:

  • Therapy to discuss underlying issues of anxiety that can then be addressed – learn ways to relax, problem solve, see situations in new/healthier ways, develop effective coping strategies
  • Thought challenging in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for anxiety
  • Exposure therapy for anxiety – learn to address specific fears, situations and phobias e.g. systematic desensitization
  • Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation
  • Hypnosis for anxiety

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