Anxious vs. Nervous: What’s The Difference?

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In This Article

Anxious and nervous are two terms that are used interchangeably in our society. Many people believe that the symptoms are so closely related that the two terms are one in the same. However, that’s not true.

If someone is experiencing temporary worry about a particular situation, they are experiencing nervousness. If someone is suffering from anxiety, they live their life in a constant state of fear. The lines between the two conditions have been blurred. This is because when people today feel even the slightest discomfort about a situation, their immediate response is to say “Oh my gosh! This gives me anxiety!”

Anxiety is clinically defined as excessive worry or fear. These feelings can be crippling to someone suffering from anxiety. In fact, they may even affect a person’s ability to attend school, work, or even to have healthy relationships. What’s more is that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety affects up to 33% of American adults.

A Look At Anxiety

It’s important to take a look at anxiety when comparing the feelings of being anxious vs. nervous. Anxiety can bring about intense feelings of worry or fear in someone suffering from the disorder. These emotions can be so severe that they are also accompanied by physical symptoms. These include headaches, stomach aches, and difficulty sleeping.

Many times if someone is just experiencing feelings of nervousness, they can think their way out of them. Focusing on something positive, or even performing mindfulness techniques, can usually get a person to calm down and move on with their day.

If you find yourself unable to calm yourself down, or think your way out of the feelings of worry and fear, you may want to talk to a doctor about possibly having anxiety. This is especially true if your emotions are starting to affect your work, school, or home life.

There are also varying types of anxiety that someone could be diagnosed with. Certain people are diagnosed with social anxiety. This form of anxiety causes people to avoid situations where they will be judged. It’s characterized by an overwhelming sense of worry around what other people will think about them.

Panic disorder is another form of anxiety. This form of the disorder is characterized by frequent and severe panic attacks. These panic attacks are defined as sudden and severe episodes of anxiety. Panic attacks can occur together with physical symptoms that are similar to heart, digestive, or neurological disorders.

Panic attacks can be serious business, because it’s easy for people experiencing them to mistake them for heart attacks or something more serious. This causes a lot of panic attack sufferers to visit the emergency room. However, once they become familiar with the symptoms, they can recognize it’s a panic attack and begin to tell themselves that they’re going to be ok.

Once patients realize it’s a panic attack, they can quickly start breathing exercises to overcome the symptoms.

Treating Anxiety

Another major difference of being anxious vs. nervous is that feelings of anxiousness associated with anxiety can be treated. The first step is realizing that you have anxiety. Many people don’t realize they are dealing with an anxiety disorder. They go to their normal doctor, and describe their symptoms.

While this may help in the short term, the challenge is that people never end up getting the anxiety treatment they need. Also, there is a stigma associated with a diagnosis of anxiety. People are hesitant to visit with the right medical professionals, or receive the correct treatment, because they don’t want to be known as someone who “has anxiety.”

It’s important for people that may be suffering from the condition to realize that they aren’t alone. Anxiety, and the related disorders, are one of the most-commonly diagnosed medical conditions in the country.

Anxiety can happen to any person of any age. As time goes on, the more we know about anxiety and the more it gets diagnosed, less and less stigma becomes attached. It’s not a big deal anymore, and it’s important to share with your friends and family so you have their support as you work through it.

If your anxiety is severe, it may help to see a therapist or counselor regularly. However, if it’s more mild, you may be able to handle your anxiety symptoms independently.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep, exercising, being mindful of your diet, and just taking steps to stay in overall healthy condition can go a long way in helping to combat anxiety.

From a mental aspect, setting goals for yourself is a great way to overcome the disorder. Setting goals that force you to stretch outside your comfort zone, and achieving them, is a great way of training your brain that you can beat your anxiety.

A simple example of this is someone with social anxiety. If they are suffering from severe social anxiety, to the point where they don’t want to leave their house, a great goal for them might be to go down to the local coffee shop and order a cup of coffee.

This will get them out of the house, and help them force themselves to interact with others. They will be outside of their comfort zone, and over time, start to take control of their own thoughts.

In recent years, the benefits of meditation on anxiety are starting to be studied more. Taking 10-20 minutes to slow down, be present, and focus on your thoughts and breathing helps you to be more present. And when you’re more present,  you’re spending less time thinking about the past or future, which both can cause anxiety.

Being Anxious vs. Nervous

We’ve seen here that being anxious, and suffering from anxiety, is way more severe than someone just being nervous. Someone who is nervous is still in control. They can easily shift to more positive thoughts and calm themselves down. Their feelings of nervousness are much more temporary as well.

Someone who is anxious may have a harder time overcoming those feelings. And the feelings may last a lot longer as well. It’s important to know the difference of being anxious vs. nervous in order to solve the problem properly.

If you do feel less in control of your feelings, and are leaning more toward the “anxiety side” of the spectrum, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Contact the proper medical professional or counselor and start to get yourself the proper help.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one need help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our specialists can assess your needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for long-term recovery.
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