What is the difference between stress and anxiety and how does it affect students in high school?

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OVERVIEW

Anxiety is on the rise among teenagers and high school students all over the globe. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders with 25% of teenagers being affected meaning that 1 in 4 teenagers suffer from an anxiety disorder. These disorders are also being glamorized and self diagnosed. Many people misunderstand high levels of stress that go on for long periods of stress to be an anxiety disorder but there are certain human reactions that are normal when feeling stressed. Learning the correct meanings of certain words that have been made out to be synonyms is very important especially when it comes to the mental health of others. 

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

Definition: Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations

Anxiety is the body’s response to being overwhelmed with worry and fear. There are times where everyone feels anxious or has a feeling of anxiety but some people experience an irrational amount of the feeling which is usually from an underlying issue or an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is triggered by stress but it manifests into an irrational sense of stress. Anxiety also about a certain thing does not go away once the situation has been handled or the “threat” goes away.

WHAT IS STRESS?

Definition: A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances

Stress is the body’s response to being overwhelmed with challenge and demand. Stress is different from anxiety in the sense that there is usually a rational reason behind why an individual is experiencing stress. Stress is not typically brought on by doing everyday activities. Stress is usually brought on by specific things occurring such as receiving a large amount of homework or being put under a lot of pressure. Stress can also be positive in bursts when it helps you to get out of danger or meet a deadline.

THE BIGGEST STRESSORS: 

  • Fear of Failure
  • Social Pressure
  • Uncertainty About the Future
  • Heavy workload
  • Social media

THE BIGGEST ANXIETY INDUCERS:

  • Arguments or conflict 
  • Fear of things going wrong
  • Disorganization 
  • Social media
  • Changes to routine or disruption to lifestyle

ANXIETY DISORDERS:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – GAD is diagnosed when a person experiences feelings of restlessness, fatigue, difficulty focusing, irritability, excessive worry and difficulty sleeping with little to provoke it, most days, for at least 6 months
  • Panic disorder – This is characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks which come with symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating or chills, shaking, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling a loss of control over their body and emotions. People with panic disorder may try to avoid situations that they think might cause them to have a panic attack or constantly be dreading when the next one will occur. Some of these symptoms do occur as a normal human reaction to stress but the feeling of panic disorder is usually more intense and intrusive. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder – OCD includes the urge to do something repetitively. A very stereotypical way of thinking of this disorder is just wanting to keep things clean and organized but not it is not keeping things tidy in the way one would think. People with this disorder will do things such as check objects repeatedly to reduce fear, repeating words, names or phrases, cleaning things to reduce risk of contamination or arranging things in a certain way that makes their brain feel less anxious. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD is the body’s response to experiencing or living through a traumatic event. Symptoms don’t always start immediately after the event, they can start months after. The effects of the disorder include unwanted or unexpected flashbacks of the event, nightmares and avoidance of things or situations relating to the event. 

CONCLUSION:

Knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is very important when talking about mental health especially when you’re in high school. High school is full of stress and sometimes the stress that it causes on top of possible past trauma can turn into something much bigger such as an anxiety disorder. If you know someone that does have a diagnosed anxiety disorder the best thing you can do for them is reassure them that it will be ok. As confusing as it may be for you to understand where their thoughts are coming from and why they are thinking the way they are, be there for them to help them through it. A support system is always needed whether someone has a mental disorder or not. 

QUESTIONS FOR VIEWERS:

  • What have you learned from this presentation?
  • What are some tips you have or things you do to reduce stress and/or anxiety?

This is a form where you can choose your top three stressors: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeH43lxsHrAQcGc9CQ9cRSfWYscZmZS7QucF33C5beXd4Z34w/viewform 

SOURCES:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1icf0ccfzi1OsWHI59Gv_iPOlF2-oSlbircKVhOfa7X0/edit

9 Comments

9 comments

  1. Erika P

    Hi Tillie!
    Your website was super awesome! I think this question is so important! I have seen people self-diagnosing and using anxiety as a phrase rather than a disorder, which diminishes the reality of the disorder. The infographic you put in from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare was super informative and I think conveyed the point very well.
    To answer your second question, I have been working with my therapist a lot on how to reduce my GAD and Social Anxiety. One way that has helped me is using a mantra. Whenever I feel very anxious or begin to have a panic attack, I repeat my mantra over and over until I feel better.

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    Hi Tillie! Great work! I really loved your deep dive into the language we used to define mental illness and abnormal behaviors and how impactful a word can be. So interesting! I learned that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent are with teenagers and I wonder if there is a link. It was also fascinating that social media was listed as a trigger for both stress and anxiety and I wonder if contributed to the above fact. One tip that I have is to name and recognize the feeling as a feeling that is real and valid but doesn’t define me or my identity. This helps my mind accept yet not inflate the sensation.

  3. Zihan_244

    Hi Tillie! I really enjoyed reading your presentations! I think this is a really important topic especially for teenagers who are having too much stress/anxiety from school. The biggest thing I learned in this presentation is the impact of having anxiety disorder. I think in some circumstances a little stress can push you to work harder and achieve your goal, while long-term anxiety will actually cause the opposite effect. One tip I have to reduce stress is to talk to the stressor to someone else. It could your teacher, your parents, or your friends. I think just just by telling about it makes you feel better. Also, take some deep breath regularly and try to just relax and clear all of your thoughts away for a few minutes during your day.

  4. Idia

    Hi Tillie,

    Great project idea! I think that is a very important subject due to the fact that we can all strongly relate to it. Teens now show higher levels of stress and anxiety more than ever, so I think it is great that you were able to research this compelling phenomenon and kindly provide tips and tricks for how to manage those frustrating emotions. I think it is also great that you have helped to clarify the terminology, due to the fact that I also get a bit “annoyed”, when students use incorrect terminology surrounding this topic! Overall, great work, I really enjoyed your project! My question for you is, do you think wellness related exercises truly help to reduce stress and anxiety?

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    Hi Tillie!

    I think that your project investigates something that we all resonate with. There are often misconceptions surrounding what anxiety vs stress is, and where the boundary line between stress and anxiety is crossed. One main takeaway I have from this presentation is the different branches of anxiety disorders such as GAD, OCD, PD, and PTSD and how such a complex disorder is oftentimes mistaken for something of a lesser caliber. One way I tend to distract myself from feeling anxious is to surround myself (when possible) with people who I feel comfortable around. This was a very interesting project, really great work!

  6. Miles_158

    This project was very well researched and thoughtfully written. I learned about the many branching disorders of anxiety and how complex and nuanced anxiety is Very intelligent presentation, amazing work.

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    I loved your explanations and how thorough you were! This was truly eye-opening and made me realize things I never knew about stress. I also love the organization!

  8. Avatar

    this post was very eye-opening and I love the way you organized it! I believe it’s so important to know these differences and to know how to differentiate them. Great job! my question is,

  9. Mimi

    Hi Tillie! I learned a lot I hadn’t known about stress and anxiety from this project. I often see others, as well as myself, misuse and misunderstand these terms. In addition, I liked learning about the different anxiety disorders because I often hear about them but I didn’t know much about them. This project taught me a lot and helped spread mental health awareness.

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