Anxiety vs nervousness. Are they the same thing? In many ways, they are synonymous. However, they become quite different given certain contexts.
For example, being anxious is not quite the same thing as struggling with anxiety, which is not quite the same thing as an anxiety disorder.
Similarly, anxiety and nervosity are two different things, and being anxious and being nervous may have different connotations depending on how they are used. So let us explore all that!
Anxiety vs Nervousness
Anxiousness refers to uneasy anticipation – when you know something is coming, and you’re worried about it, you may be anxious. Nervousness means the exact same thing; in that, you’re contending with the unknown – and don’t know what to expect.
Semantically, the difference is largely contextual. But there may be a subtle difference depending on how often a certain word is used to mean something specific.
For example: when someone is described as anxious, it is often considered a personality trait. When someone is described as nervous, it may be that they’re nervous for the given moment – but it does not mean they are usually nervous at all times. However, you could be anxious about an event, which means the same thing as being nervous about it.
Anxiety and nervosity can be used interchangeably, although they might insinuate different things when used on their own.
In addition to being perceived as a personality trait, anxiety also refers to pathological nervousness or a state of excessive and/or extended worry.
This is where anxiety and nervosity really begin to split apart. Anxiety describes both the normal stress response to a difficult situation or challenge as well as the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
While you could describe these conditions as “nervous disorders,” that usually has a very different meaning. For example, referring to the nervous system, meaning your brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.
Is Anxiety Normal?
Being anxious about something isn’t bad and, in most cases, is quite normal. You can be anxious about your practical test for your driver’s license. You can be anxious about an upcoming business deal. You can be anxious about your employment after a major crisis at work.
But struggling with anxiety or being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is different. You aren’t just nervous – you are irrationally worried, consumed by worry, worried to the point of debilitation, or worried to the point that it affects your quality of life and invades other aspects of day-to-day living where you have no reason to worry.
Pathological Thoughts and Behaviors
The human mind is complicated, and it can be problematic to think about mental health as normal or not normal or arbitrarily pathologize feeling bad. Instead, there are clear lines where certain thoughts and behaviors become pathological, meaning they require professional treatment.
It’s normal to be sad. It’s normal to grieve. It’s normal to worry. It’s normal to feel pride, anger, horror, and so on. It’s normal to feel these things at inappropriate times, and it’s even normal not to feel them when you should.
The fact that one in three adults experience an episode of an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, to the point that it becomes a problem for a time period, should make it clear that, even as a disorder, these thoughts and emotions are very frequent and a part of the human experience. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything to address them or recognize that there is a need for treatment.
When Does Anxiety Become a Problem?
Where is the line between tolerable and treatable anxiety? At what point should you consider seeking professional help?
That line differs from person to person. Your tolerance for anxious thoughts and symptoms will be different from that of the next – it’s your own perception that matters the most.
In other words, if you think you need help and you’re struggling to function at a normal capacity because you’re preoccupied with general anxiety or a very specific and recurring fear, there is no harm in seeking professional help.
Even if a psychiatrist wouldn’t go so far as to diagnose you with a disorder, they would still likely refer you to a therapist to help discuss your worries and find ways of dealing with them in a healthy manner.
Identifying an Anxiety Disorder
Objectively, an anxiety disorder is identified when a person exhibits enough symptoms to be professionally diagnosed by a doctor. It can still be helpful to talk to a therapist before your thoughts and worries are considered unhealthy, but it may become much more important to seek professional help once they reach that tipping point.
Different anxiety disorders have different diagnostic criteria, meaning the symptoms of a social phobia differ from the symptoms of generalized anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
However, the main throughline is a form of anxiety that is:
- Persistent and unwanted.
- Interferes with your daily life.
- Affects your relationships severely.
- It may lead to harm, either to yourself or others.
- Exhibits physical symptoms (shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness, nausea).
- It will not go away without help.
Anxiety disorders come in several different forms. The most common ones include the following:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic disorder
Causes differ but are largely genetic. This means anxiety disorders are more common in people with a family history of anxiety issues. Some, like post-traumatic stress, necessitate a triggering event – some type of acute or chronic trauma. Not all anxiety is purely “in the head,” either – anxiety disorders can affect the way the body’s sympathetic nervous system responds to stress and can make it more difficult to relax or calm down.
You Can Still Manage Nervousness
Nervousness might be normal, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be managed. You can use different methods to affect and reduce your anxiety when faced with stressful situations. Try:
- Writing about it.
- Engaging in a creative endeavor.
- Walking in nature.
- Try out professional breathing exercises.
- Visit a yoga therapist.
- Address sleeplessness.
- Reduce your caffeine and/or alcohol intake.
These methods of stress management can also help with anxiety symptoms but work best hand-in-hand with an actual treatment plan.
Anxiety Treatment in Malibu
If you’re struggling with anxiety or an anxiety-related disorder, get help at Amend Treatment today.