Anxiety and Stress

In This Article:

If you need help,
we’re here for you.
Contact us today.

Get Help

100% Confidential
Pasadena Villa
Locations & Programs
Smoky Mountain Lodge
(Sevierville, TN)
Intensive Residential Treatment and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
The Stables Autism Program
(Sevierville, TN)
Intensive Residential Treatment
In todayís world there is a focus on relieving stress and anxiety; however these terms are often used interchangeably. This can cause some confusion, especially when trying to implement remedies. Knowing the difference between these two is the first step towards alleviating stress and anxiety.
Many psychologists make a distinction between fear and anxiety. Fear they see as a reaction to a real threat. Anxiety they see as feeling much like fear but can occur without specific cause. In other words, anxiety is associated with perceived threats, before the fact, in anticipation of events or situations that might happen and if/when they do will most likely be unpleasant.
Stress, on the other hand, is a response to a situation or events that did happen; events that may or may not be unpleasant. A near car collision occurs; an unpleasant event; or a surprise birthday gathering, with old friends attending; a usually pleasant event. But, in either case, afterwards, one may feel weak in the knees and emotionally drained. This is a picture of short-term emergency stress. Of course, there are also longer-term situations that produce stress — the long drive in heavy traffic commuting to work, worrying about the family budget or financial setbacks, everyday job demands, or an currently ailing parent, to name but a few. Note, that all these examples are events that have taken place; they did occur.
A further definition of anxiety is a diffused feeling of dread, apprehension, and impending catastrophe. Some people confuse the feeling of anxiety with the feeling of fear. Anxiety differs from fear on several counts. Although both are reactions to danger, in the case of fear the danger is external and directly perceived. In anxiety, the source is primarily internal and largely, not wholly unrecognized.  Typically, fear is an intense response to a clear and present danger. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a pervasive uneasiness experienced when we are threatened by unknown dangers from outside ourselves, or unconscious conflicts and impulses within ourselves. Coincidently, it may trigger the same reaction as in the case of stage fright or spotty memory. A strong arousal caused by fear or anxiety, swamps the cortex, in extreme cases knocking out the ability to respond rationally. Panic ensues; one runs or is rooted to the spot, and forgets their well-rehearsed lines.
Anxiety, according to Freud, is related to the conflict between the ego and the id, between mediation with reality and instinctual drives. In the Freudian view, the buildup of psychological and emotional energy within the mind is unpleasant and leads to attempts to discharge or contain it. As the buildup of energy continues, it becomes too much to be handled in either manner, thus creating a state of unpleasantness. This state of unpleasantness was called by Freud a traumatic state, and the event causing it a traumatic event. The emotion felt while in the traumatic state, Freud called anxiety. Freud thought that anxiety set in action defense mechanisms by which the ego opposes the id wishes. These action defenses include denial, identification, intellectualization, isolation, projection, repression, and undoing, to name a few common examples. In a further separation between anxiety and fear, Freud defines anxiety as having to do with one’s inner feelings, in contrast to fear which has to do with objective things.
Stress is defined as: The psychological and physiological result of an appraisal of a situation by an individual as likely to have harmful effects for him/herself according to the Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. In the most general sense, the term stress is used to refer to a situation in which a person is overtaxed in some way. However, within this very general framework, a number of specific definitions have evolved, each emphasizing a different aspect of the overtaxing situation, but basically consistent with one another. Each of these definitions also involves explicit or implicit reference to strain — the negative, or pathological, outcome of stress.
Many experts place a great importance on the subject of stress which they see as one of the most urgent problems of our day. Clinical experience has proved to psychologists and psychiatrists alike that the central problem in psychotherapy is the nature of anxiety. To the extent that we have been able to solve that problem, we have made an initial first step in understanding the causes of integration and disintegration of personality.
Differences between the two (Anxiety and Stress)
Some experts use the terms interchangeability. Other experts take a determined stand against the use of stress as a synonym for anxiety, I will argue against the identification of stress as being the same as anxiety, and will hold that stress is not an adequate substitute for describing the apprehension we ordinarily refer to as anxiety. Stress (as used in the 1950’s in the field of psychology) is borrowed from other scientific fields (engineering and physics), and has gained popularity because it is easy to define, can be readily adapted, and suitably measured, all of which are difficult with the word anxiety. The problem with the term stress as synonym for anxiety is that it puts the emphasis on what happens to the person, while anxiety has to do with one’s inner feelings. Anxiety is uniquely bound up with consciousness and subjectivity.
One rather important point: if the popularity of thinking stress and anxiety are interchangeable, and that is, if we lump both of these together, we will have lost a crucial distinction of our understanding. I believe that it is important to distinguish the difference between the two, not only for proper identification purposes, but also for implementing the correct remedy to alleviate anxiety and stress.

Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on physical and mental health; however, they don’t necessarily affect everyone the same way. It is important to understand that while stress and anxiety can be connected, they are not the same. Anxiety can occur without a specific cause, such as a perceived threat or the anticipation of events or situations. Stress, on the other hand, can be caused by short-term or long-term events such as driving in traffic, meeting a deadline at work, financial issues. Let’s look at both in more detail.

What is stress?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines stress as how the body and the brain responds to demands or stressors such as work, school, traumatic events, family, or finances.

There are a few things to note about stress:

  • Stress affects us all. At some point, we all have stress and some cope more effectively and more quickly than others. Stressors may be one time or an occurrence that continues over time.
  • Stress is not all bad. Stress can serve as a motivator for some, think about taking a test. It also helps prepare our bodies to face a threat or flee to safety. As our body goes into survival mode, our pulse quickens, muscles tense, and our brain uses more oxygen.
  • Stress can be harmful.Chronic or long-term stress can negatively affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Long-term stressors are often constant but harder to notice because our body has no signal to return to normal, which over time can lead to issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.
  • Stress is manageable. Stress can build up but there are practical steps that can be taken to alleviate negative effects. Learning to manage stress can lead to overall improved well-being.

Many experts place great importance on stress, which they see as one of the most urgent problems today. Stress itself is not an illness, but if prolonged out, the body will not be able to return to a normal state, which has a negative effect on emotions.

The Mayo Clinic lists some common effects of stress:


  • Headache
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep issues


  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Depression


  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of exercise

Chronic stress can cause depression and anxiety. Studies have also shown that it can change the structure of the brain, affecting both the nerves and connections and increasing the likelihood of developing a mental illness. In some instances, short-term stress can lead to serious mental illness such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can develop after experiencing a traumatic event.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is how our bodies sometimes respond to stress and can be a feeling of dread, apprehension, and impending catastrophe. Some people confuse the feeling of anxiety with the feeling of fear. Typically, fear is an intense response to a clear and present danger; while anxiety is a pervasive uneasiness experienced when we are threatened by unknown dangers from outside ourselves or unconscious conflicts and impulses within ourselves.

When anxiety begins to interfere with daily activities it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, with just over 21% of adults affected each year and include many different types like these below.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects just over 6.8 million adults each year and is characterized by chronic worrying about everyday life and activities, lasting at least six months. People with GAD realize their anxiety is more intense than needed but don’t know how to stop the cycle. GAD can cause physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, stomachache, or nausea.
  • Panic Disorder can happen repeatedly and without warning. These spontaneous episodes of fear trigger severe physical reactions such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying. Those with panic disorder are often preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as social phobia and is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, rejected, or negatively evaluated in a social situation. Social anxiety disorder affects over 15 million US adults each year and is the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder following a specific phobia. Social anxiety can cause rapid heart rate, nausea, sweating, and possibly panic attacks.
  • Phobia brings a disabling and irrational fear of something that poses no real threat or danger and leads to an avoidance of objects or situations. Specific phobias to things such as heights, spiders, tight spaces, and others can cause uneasy feelings and disrupt daily life and strain relationships as the individual will do what they need to avoid the situation or feelings of phobic anxiety.

It is important to understand and distinguish between stress and anxiety, and to know that help is available. The Pasadena Villa Network provides evidence-based treatment for those with serious mental illnesses. We provide individualized therapy programs in multiple levels of care that includes residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient care. If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety that is affecting daily living, call us today or complete our contact form for more information.

If you’re ready to start your recovery, we’re here to help.

Contact us today.

Our treatment centers accept private payment, out-of-network benefits, and in-network benefits.

Our Admissions Team is available at 407.215.2519 to discuss your payment options.

Recent Posts

If you’re ready to take the next step in the recovery process for you or your loved one, the compassionate team at Pasadena Villa is here to help. Give us a call at 407.215.2519 or complete our contact form.

Looking for treatment?

Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Get exclusive resources, find inspiration, and grow alongside us. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter now!