Anxiety Disorder or “Normal” Worry: What’s the difference?

Fear is something we all experience. It is a healthy and necessary response to situations that pose a threat to our health and safety. However, at some point many of us learned to fear things that didn’t actually put us in physical harm-we became fearful of situations that “might” be as opposed to situations that actually are. We also learned to become fearful of certain emotions and the things that may cause them. When this natural instinct begins working against us, instead of for us, it has more than likely crossed into a “disorder”.

Some of us might prefer to do without any kind of worry or stress, because it’s uncomfortable. The physical symptoms that can manifest aren’t exactly a walk in the park. Experiencing some nervousness before a test, presentation or a first date is pretty typical. The stress related to wanting something to go well can be helpful-if we had no stress or worry about the upcoming test we would be less likely to study. In certain situations this anxiety motivates us to make sure we are fully prepared for whatever the upcoming event happens to be.

So, at what point does this worry become problematic? Well, let’s take the test scenario. Helpful stress motivates us to study and because we prepared we can feel relatively confident while taking the test. If this worry becomes more insistent and the person finds themselves not able to concentrate on other things, let alone studying, it’s not being very helpful right? More than likely the person will try to study, but the anxiety will build and build -they’ll experience more physical symptoms such as stomach upset, heart racing and trouble sleeping. Because of this whirlwind of racing thoughts and physical symptoms, when it finally comes to take the test they are unable to concentrate well enough, so they do poorly.

For someone suffering from an anxiety disorder, this example can happen in any scenario. They might start avoiding things that cause the anxiety. It may occur in situations where it doesn’t seem “logical” to be worried. When anxiety takes over it is very difficult to rationalize your way out of it. They are probably well aware that they’re not going to die if they fail a test, but the intensity of the fear is very real.

So, what can you do if you’re concerned your worry is starting to cross over to a “disorder”? A few helpful tips:

-Learn how to practice Mindfulness or Meditation: both practices give our brains time to relax, as well as helps us learn how to set aside anxious thoughts

-Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise can have a similar effect on the brain as a low dose anti-depressant which can help with anxiety

-Breathe: learn breathing techniques that can help slow down your heartrate when anxious. It can be very soothing to simply sit and focus on breathing when you’re worried.

-Ask for help: whether it be from friends, family or a professional talking it out always helps

If you’re concerned that your worry has become excessive and it’s interfering in your daily life, one of our licensed professional counselors can help. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando counselors.


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