Stress, anxiety, anguish?

Stress, anxiety and anguish are words that tend to be used indistinctly, and the borders among them may seem confusing. Do I suffer from anxiety or stress? Should I consult my psychologist for stress? Is this anguish or anxiety?

Let’s clarify the terminology. Stress is the exhaustion caused by an overload, such as an intense workday, the preparation for an exam or the hyperactive bustle of modern cities. When the overload disappears, the stress disappears. The businessman with the full agenda, that runs from office to office, that doesn’t have time to sleep, and that suffers strong headaches and back-pain, suffers from stress. After a good holiday, most of the stress should disappear. Shouldn’t I worry about stress then? It’s not so simple. Maybe you feel that stress is ruling your life, or you feel trapped in exhausting circumstances. In those cases, visiting a psychologist can be very helpful. It can help you cope with overloads in a better way, and to teach you new ways of handling stress.

Anxiety, as we explored in the last article, is not stress. It is not caused by an overload, and it doesn’t disappear after resting or during the holidays easily. It could even increase. In many occasions, anxiety is healthy, and there is no need for an intervention: a new job, a move, or the beginning of a romantic relationship, tend to cause anxiety as a normal part of our life experience.

Facing bereavement, anxiety is also a part of the normal healing process. But if anxiety is too intense, if it extends over time and paralyses our life, it is essential to consult a professional.

Anguish, also called panic attacks, is the highest peak of anxiety. The heart bumps, the hands sweat, something terrible (and maybe unknown) seems imminent, and life seems threatening. Luckily, the peak descends after some minutes, leaving us confused and, sometimes, still scared. In these situations, it is always important to consult a professional. Panic attacks can be very unpleasant, and coping with them badly can cause them to increase. If you see their frequency increasing, and occurring in more situations, consult your psychologist.

By Pablo Sabucedo Serrano

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