Understanding the Difference Between Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder

Oct 01, 2023
Understanding the Difference Between Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder
It’s normal to feel anxious when you speak before an audience or have a job interview. But if you’re anxious much of the time, and avoid social situations when possible, you may have an anxiety disorder. Know this: Anxiety disorders can be treated.

Anxiety is a part of life. We all tend to feel anxious when we’re put on the spot or thrust into an unfamiliar situation. But if you feel anxious or uneasy much of the time, you could have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.

Approximately 19% of women and men over age 18 in the United States have an anxiety disorder. However, less than half of them get a diagnosis and treatment.

At Precise Research Centers, our founder, Joseph Kwentus, MD, diagnoses and treats various types of anxiety disorders at our Flowood, Mississippi, offices. He and our team enroll adults in clinical research trials that determine the efficacy of specific medications to help manage the symptoms of anxiety disorder. 

Are you simply anxious occasionally, or do you have an anxiety disorder that would benefit from treatment? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.

How well do you sleep?

If you sleep well and fully most nights, you probably don’t have an anxiety disorder. But if you lie in bed worrying before finally drifting off, you might.

Even if you fall asleep easily, an anxiety disorder can affect the quality of your sleep. Insomnia isn’t just about taking a long time to fall asleep. Insomnia manifests as:

  • Delayed sleep onset (i.e., taking too much time to fall asleep)
  • Having trouble staying asleep
  • Awakening with a racing heart
  • Awakening too early in the morning
  • Feeling groggy in the morning

Your entire body needs sleep to repair itself and restore its energy. However, sleep is especially important to your brain. While you sleep, your glymphatic system clears your brain of abnormal proteins and toxins. If you have anxiety and don’t sleep well, your anxiety is likely to worsen without treatment.

How energized are you?

If you have a steady supply of energy and vitality during the day, you probably don’t have an anxiety disorder, even if you feel anxious about certain events or situations from time to time. 

Because anxiety disorders tend to interfere with sleep, an anxiety disorder may leave you feeling fatigued throughout the day.

Anxiety is part of your body’s fight-or-flight response, which releases stress hormones such as cortisol into your bloodstream. Remaining on high alert for much of the day saps your body of energy, leaving you feeling groggy and dull.

Do you have chronic pain or tummy aches?

If you’re free of digestive issues and your body generally feels well, you might not have an anxiety disorder. When you have an anxiety disorder, your body is chronically flooded with cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones don’t allow your muscles or your gut to relax. Your digestive system never gets to rest, so it can’t properly digest. Your muscles feel tense. You may experience symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches

Treating anxiety lets your body relax. Your muscles let go of tension. Your digestive system gets to function smoothly and without issues.

Do you spend most of your time at home?

If your life consists of a nice balance between home life and social activities, including work, you probably don’t have an anxiety disorder, even if you occasionally feel nervous at parties or other events. In contrast, if you avoid parties, events, and even start skipping school or work, you could have an anxiety disorder.

Do you cancel appointments at the last minute? Do you say “no” more than “yes” to invitations? Do you even avoid family gatherings or get-togethers with friends? Have you been skipping school or avoiding work? You may have an anxiety disorder.

How hard is it to make a decision?

If you take time to weigh all options in a decision, and then come to the conclusion that one option is better than the others, all things considered, then you probably don’t have an anxiety disorder. 

However, if you go back and forth between the options, and can’t commit to one or the other, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Another sign that you could have an anxiety disorder is that it’s difficult or impossible for you to make a decision without assistance. If you frequently find yourself asking other people what they’d do, instead of deciding what’s best for yourself, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders hamper your social interactions and can derail your life. Fortunately, many effective therapies help your body and brain relax so you can let go of anxiety and experience your life more fully and easily. 

To find out if you’re a candidate for clinical trials for social anxiety treatments, call Precise Research Centers at 601-685-3457 or book an appointment online today. You can also send a message to our team on the website. There’s no cost associated with being in a clinical trial.