The terms stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably and their physical symptoms are similar. Stress is a reaction to something that occurred and anxiety refers to a general feeling of fear or apprehension that doesn't necessarily have a specific cause; it's the anticipation that something may happen.
When things happen we have to adapt, our bodies have to react. When we assess a threat, we react in a certain way. Our pupils dilate, sweat glands accelerate, heart beat accelerates, breathing becomes rapid, and adrenalin is released to give us energy. This reaction is referred to as "fight or flight" or stress response.
Stressful situations can be both negative and positive. For example, buying a new house or taking a trip can be just as stressful as an argument with your boss or a flat tire. The stress response helps you handle situations by sharpening your senses, enhancing your concentration, or quickening you reaction time when you swerve your car sideways to avoid a careless pedestrian.
Stress is a normal reaction to our environment and a desired reaction in a dangerous situation. But having too many stressful issues or living with a long term stressful situation can result in serious health problems.
Both stress and anxiety are a response to a threatening situation. The difference is that stress is caused by a real threat and anxiety is the result of an imagined one. Your body doesn't know the difference. It prepares itself to a threat by increasing its fight or flight capabilities and suspending non essential functioning such as conscious thought and digestion. If stress and anxiety get out of control they can affect the body in a number of ways:
If many of the above symptoms pertain to you, you should talk to your doctor. These signs can also be caused by other problems and should be evaluated by a professional.
A certain amount of anxiety is good. If we had no anxiety, we would be unmotivated to do anything.
But, long term stress and anxiety can lead to many health problems. Chronic stress affects almost every system in the body. It accelerates the aging process, weakens the immune system, and increases the risk of heart attacks and other age-related illnesses. Prolonged stress increases the production of hormones that can increase the occurrence of strokes, seizures, impaired memory and Alzheimer's disease.
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