Nervousness vs Anxiety: Are They Different?
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There are many instances wherein a person could feel completely overwhelmed and helpless, particularly when they are gripped by an intense emotion that could make them shake, tremble, or even freeze on the spot. Some call it being extremely nervous, others say that they are having an anxiety attack, but which is it really? There is a need to define nervousness vs anxiety so as to better understand which of the two intense sensations is being experienced. Anxiety and addiction are often correlated, could nervousness also have a connection with addiction?
What Does it Mean to be Anxious?
Most would attribute feeling anxious to an incident where a person is waiting for something or someone, and the waiting is gradually making them lose their composure and ability to think rationally. The truth of the matter is that what is being felt is a symptom of anxiety, and there are quite a few differences between being anxious as a symptom of anxiety and being nervous.
Anxiety is characterized by a persistent feeling of dread, fear, extreme uneasiness, or intense restlessness. In many cases, anxiety is next to impossible to control, and efforts to calm someone suffering from anxiety could prove to be futile. It is not uncommon for people who suffer from chronic anxiety to avoid people, places, or situations that they attribute to the onset of an anxiety attack. This avoidance is brought on by an intense urge to avoid the things that the mind has subconsciously attributed to anxiety.
Anxiety is also differentiated from simply being nervous by the wide range of symptoms that accompany the severe sense of dread that washes over a person suffering from an anxiety attack. These could include:
- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
- Elevated heart rate
- Stomach pain/cramps
- Varying degrees of nausea
- Feelings fatigued
- Uncontrollable trembling or shaking
- Muscle tension
- Muscle pain
In some cases, these symptoms aggravate the situation even more, driving the person to greater anxiety. It is not uncommon for people to break down when an anxiety attack becomes intense enough.
What Does it Mean to be Nervous?
As opposed to anxiety, being nervous is actually a physical response to a situation that the mind and body interpret as something that requires the natural fight-or-flight response. The stressful situation triggers a change in the body, preparing it to respond to a perceived challenge or to escape the situation should running away become the best option.
People who are nervous often mistake the feelings they experience as an anxiety attack, as they could feel any or all of these things:
- Dry mouth
- Dry throat
- Sudden profuse sweating
- Slight dizziness
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of self-doubt
- Feeling a sense that a decision needs to be made as soon as possible
- Inexplicable feeling of urgency
Unlike an anxiety attack, however, feelings of nervousness soon wear off after some time. The most common times when nervousness becomes quite notable in intensity are during exams, when a presentation needs to be given, just before a performance, before an interview, or when waiting for important results to come out. Feelings of nervousness are typically not strong enough to disrupt a person’s resolve or presence of mind and do not linger once the situation that caused it is over.
If the feelings of nervousness persist even after the situation that brought it is over, it may actually be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
How Could Anxiety Be Differentiated from Nervousness?
In many instances, it is important to determine if the feeling being experienced is simply nervousness or if it is already a sign of a more complex anxiety issue, particularly if it is already chronic. This is because anxiety concerns have a tendency to worsen over time, particularly if it is left unaddressed. Should there be doubts that it might already be a case of anxiety, it would be best to consult with a mental health professional to check if it is and learn what treatment options would be best suited for it.
Some of the more pronounced differences between nervousness and anxiety include:
Nervousness typically ends once the stressful situation is over, or in some cases, it might persist for a short while and soon fade out. A feeling of nervousness that stays is not normal in any scenario. Anxiety, on the other hand, will not go away as easily. In most cases of anxiety, in fact, the person suffers prolonged bouts of doubt, fear, paranoia, depression, severe uneasiness, and all the other hallmarks of anxiety.
Being nervous will typically not prevent a person from doing what needs to be done. In some cases, being all nervous could actually help with whatever needs to be done, as the adrenaline rush keeps the person alert, focused, and ready. Anxiety, on the other hand, could be so bad that the person might become unable to do the most basic of things, such as get up and walk. Anxiety attacks could be so bad that many often break down, find themselves on the floor, and even require assistance just to be able to compose themselves.
In most cases, a person will know what they are nervous about. They could be nervous about a test, such as an exam in school, a driving test, meeting someone for the first time, or a presentation before a crowd that needs to be delivered. Whatever the case might be, a person would always know the source of the nervousness. Anxiety, however, could be so vague that the emotional effects could stay with the person for an entire day or even longer, and they still would not know what is causing it. This is what makes anxiety so devastating to a person, the feeling that something is profoundly wrong, and yet still be left completely in the dark as to what it might be.
Ability to Manage
Public speakers are masters of conquering their feelings of nervousness. Some of them even give out tips on how another person might be able to do public speaking or a presentation without giving in to the debilitating effects of being nervous. This proves that nervousness is manageable and the person who has it could do something to mitigate the trouble. When a person suffers from anxiety, however, depending on the type that they have, managing an anxiety attack could be immensely difficult and sometimes even next to impossible. So far, only therapy and medication have really helped people with their anxiety.
Is Mild Anxiety Different from an Anxiety Disorder?
For all intents and purposes, an episode of mild anxiety is attributed to the things that make a person nervous. It is not uncommon for people in the grip of nervousness to exclaim that they are having an anxiety attack. Once the stressful situation is over and the person stops feeling what they attribute to anxiety, then it is simply a case of being severely nervous.
An anxiety disorder, however, is something that will not go away even if the stressful event is over. In fact, most cases of anxiety disorders stay with the person for a lifetime and are only managed through therapy or medication, or a combination of both. This is why people who suffer from chronic bouts of depression, fear, severe uneasiness, and panic are advised to seek the help of a mental health professional to determine what the cause of their condition might be, and what steps need to be taken to manage it.
What are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is a disorder that primarily affects the mind, and while the mind suffers, the body reflects it in various ways. As such, there could be a myriad of ways that anxiety could affect a person, and for purposes of classifying the different forms of anxiety so that it could be treated, five major types have been established that most of the specific symptoms fall into.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Otherwise known as GAD, this is a disorder that is characterized by inexplicable and unprovoked chronic anxiety and exaggerated worry and tension. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released data that most recently, at least 6.8 million Americans, or 3.1% of the US population, suffer from GAD. Of this figure, only 43.2% are actually receiving treatment for it, meaning there is still a massive number of Americans who suffer from this condition on a daily basis and continue to do so without help or support from a mental health professional.
Panic disorder is characterized by unpredictable, repeated, and persistent episodes of intense fear. These intense episodes of fear are typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pains, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal distress. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists at least 6 million American adults as having panic disorder, with women being twice as likely to suffer from it than men.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is a disorder characterized by overwhelming and excessive self-consciousness when exposed to everyday social situations. Depending on the specific severity experienced by the person who has it, social phobia could be limited to only one type of situation, such as a fear of speaking in public settings, eating or drinking with a crowd of people, or when approached by strangers. In its more severe form, the person may have an anxiety attack anytime they are around any number of people in any scenario. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reveals that at least 15 million American adults, or roughly 7.1% of the US population, are afflicted with a social anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Other than depression, most people became familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) quite early on because of its prevalence among war veterans or people who have seen great conflict and violence, such as the members of the police force. PTSD, however, is not limited to people who are into peacekeeping or are in the armed forces, as it is also a condition developed by people who experienced domestic violence and abuse.
This condition tends to be deep-seated and might not immediately surface after the incident but instead, come out when triggered sometime later. PTSD is reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to affect some 7.7 million Americans, and this figure necessarily includes women and underage children.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts which become obsessions or repetitive behaviors which become compulsions, or even both. In modern culture, this disorder has become popularized by being featured in a number of contemporary movies and TV shows, often depicting people with OCD as whimsical at times because of their unusual behavior relevant to their obsessions or compulsions.
To someone afflicted with the condition, however, it is the farthest thing from amusing as they admit they are powerless to fight the urge to give in to their obsessions and compulsions. It is not uncommon for these obsessions and compulsions to lead to felonies or even outright crimes. the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reveals at least 2.5 million Americans suffer from OCD, where the average onset age could be as early as between 14 to 19 of age.
What Treatment is Used for Anxiety Disorders?
As anxiety disorders are centered in a person’s mind, the main treatments used to help in dealing with the various disorders associated with anxiety are psychotherapy and medication. There are psychotherapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that help in identifying the triggers that lead to the onset of a related anxiety attack, although there has been no conclusive treatment that has successfully eliminated the disorder. At best, available treatments help in either avoidance of triggering an anxiety attack, or in mitigating the damaging effects once an anxiety attack takes hold.
Let Live Free Recovery Show you How Best to Deal with Anxiety
There is no magic cure for anxiety. This is because experts in the field still have to establish why the things that trigger anxiety have such a profound effect on the mind. This is why we here at Live Free Recovery do our best to help people through the worst of it, as this is the time when they need support the most. Quality of life is still possible even if you have an anxiety disorder, and we can show you how to do it. Talk to us now.