"I know I have anxiety, but I don't really understand what that means. How is this different from any other stress?" - 29, F, NY
Although stress and anxiety can feel similar, the difference is really in the cause. Stress is a response to an external trigger (such as a tight work deadline), and the feeling passes once the stressor is gone. Anxiety, on the other hand, is pervasive. It's a consistent feeling of dread or fearfulness, even when there is no external threat. Therefore, the cause of anxiety is more internal.Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues, and there are many different ways in which anxiety can manifest. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and persistent worry about everyday events and activities. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense fear or anxiety in social situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another type of anxiety disorder that involves recurring, intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions).Although I don't believe in pathologizing clients, understanding the type of anxiety disorder you have can be helpful in validating your experience and letting you know you're not alone in your struggles. It can also help direct you towards the right coping strategies and therapeutic tactics for your specific needs.