Anxiety vs Worry

There is a huge difference between worry and anxiety.  The word ‘anxious’ is thrown around so casually sometimes that people really suffering from and anxiety disorder just think ‘gosh you really have no idea real anxiety actually like’.

The main difference is worry is usually around a single event (a presentation, a job interview, a date etc) – it is triggered by something very specific and passes once the event is over.  Worries can usually be limited to a specific topic or topics.  Someone with general anxiety disorder can have an attack just sitting at home, waiting for the bus, sitting with a friend – it takes no particular incident or topic– though of course there are some things that trigger it off more than others.  For me currently it is social situations, public transport and places I know are going to be very busy and noisy, but more than often it strikes just when I am in the safety of my own home or walking along the street.  Unfortunately the only place I currently feel safe is when I am at the hospital waiting for appointments which is not the best situation to be in!

Normal worry also does not interfere with your social life or work, you can carry on as usual with nothing in the way to stop you.  Anxiety doesn’t, it gets in the way of everything.  For me it meant I couldn’t work for 2 years and lost contact with many, many friends, may of whom I am so anxious about seeing again for fear of judgment or knowing what to say or feeling that people have changed I keep putting it off – I know this is something at this point in my recovery (probably very soon) I need to face up to, but the problem is where to start (of course my BPD does not help this!!).

With an anxiety disorder everything feels out of control, you cannot control when a panic attack will hit or how hard it will hit.  The worries you have cause huge distress and leads to ruminating for hours and hours often over the tiniest of things, which to most people would sound ridiculous it is like a hamster going round and round on its wheel with your brain racing with 1000 thoughts.  For me, a prime example of this was I was in a therapy session and my therapist lent me a pen which I subconsciously started chewing, she commented on me chewing it and all of the following week I was then thinking about it and feeling so anxious I felt had to buy her a new set of pens, which I did – ridiculous eh?!  Normal worries however only causes mild distress and would not lead to worrying all week about chewing someone’s pen, you can think logically about a solution or strategy.

An anxiety disorder come with many, many symptoms some include palpitations, getting sweaty, not being able to breath, freezing symptoms (I will go into detail into all of these in another blog).  General worry does not come with as many symptoms, but of course it has a lot in common.  When you have an anxiety disorder you experience 5 or more different physical and physiological symptoms at once, which can be on going for quite some time after the onset of anxiety – from hours to days making it almost impossible to do anything.

In a way worry can also trigger anxiety, only the anxiety makes it all spin right out of control.

This is a great quote I read from an anxiety sufferer that describes it so well:

“Anxiety keeps me awake at night; it keeps me as a prisoner in my home. Anxiety makes me feel like a failure; it has taken away my self-worth. Anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and nervous. Anxiety has taken away friends, family, opportunities, my life.”

This is a drawing I did in hospital. For me it represents the rational side of worry VS the spiraling and mixed up thoughts you have with an anxiety disorder.