Are you a worrier? Do you have anxiety disorder? Do you use the words ‘worry’ and ‘anxiety’ interchangeably? The fact is, they are very different things, and have very different effects on your health.

Worried About Anxiety? Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Worry tends to be more productive than anxiety, because when you’re worried, you’re worried about something specific. Maybe you’re worried about getting a project finished on time, for example. That can lead you to think about a solution—perhaps you devise a strategy for scheduling more time so you can finish it. Yes, worry puts you in some emotional distress, but you deal wit it. You can handle it. And once you resolve the problem, the worry dissipates. Worry typically doesn’t impair your day-to-day functioning.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is more visceral, a physical reaction which is generally a vaguer, unfocused feeling. Anxiety just takes over and you find it hard to think straight, to concentrate or be productive. Anxiety has the power to disrupt your life. If you’re worried about getting a project done, you devise a strategy. But if you’re anxious about getting it done, you obsess about disastrous outcomes. You are immersed in distress. You are so restless, stressed and anxious that you can’t work on the project at all, thus ensuring that you won’t finish it on time. Anxiety disrupts your ability to function.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is chronic. You anticipate disaster on an almost constant basis—whether it’s about money, relationships, work or your health. And even though you might understand that your anxiety isn’t altogether appropriate, you just can’t shake it. Sometimes you have physical symptoms like a racing heart or a churning stomach, muscle tension, trembling, sweating, headaches.

Physical symptoms often make people with GAD feel exhausted. Many suffer from depression. And while people with mild GAD can function at work and at home, when it becomes severe, they have trouble functioning. It is difficult to perform the simplest daily activities, like getting dressed in the morning. The thought of getting through the day is a trial in itself.

They key is to distinguish worry from anxiety, and anxiety from GAD. You do not need to suffer when help is available. Next week I’ll talk more about anxiety and how to cope.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: