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You have a test tomorrow or a big presentation at work, and just thinking about it makes your heart race a little. It’s a little harder for you to get to sleep because you’re thinking about how this could affect your future. These are common sources of stress and anxiety.
When people talk about anxiety, they usually mention stress as well. Stress is a change of events that causes fear, nervousness or worry, which the body responds to in different ways, like a faster heart beat and sharper senses, according to the website, Helpguide.org.
Anxiety is defined similarly to stress. It is considered a reaction to stress, and it can be normal at manageable levels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. It is thought of as fear of future events, with physical reactions like sweating and tension, as well as doubting one’s capabilities to handle the future, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. An article on Medical News Today also states that “it feels a bit like fear but whereas we know what we are frightened of, we often don't know what we are anxious about.”
Anxiety can also progress into a disorder that can affect everyday life and functioning. Multiple anxiety disorder has five main types according to the NIMH website, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social phobia/social anxiety disorder. In general, anxiety disorders are defined as “an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations.” However, each disorder is individualized.
For example, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – IV –TR), social phobia or social anxiety disorder is characterized by “a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur,” along with more specific criteria. If a person is exposed to this situation, it “almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response,” even if people with this disorder know the fear is unreasonable or excessive.