Lots of people think worry and anxiety are the same thing, and I totally understand why they would think that. People use these words interchangeably, and it makes sense because if you are worried about something you may say you are anxious about it, and vice versa. That’s ok, but you should know the difference of worry vs. anxiety.
To just worry about something is different than having anxiety. Worry is the metal component of anxiety. It is being concerned or fearful about something, but it usually helps us figure out a solution to what we are worried about. It is more focused on our thoughts.
Anxiety, on the other hand, has a physical component to it, creates greater emotional distress, and does not help us figure out a solution to what is causing our fear. Someone with anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as muscles tensing up, heart rate increasing, shaking, trouble breathing, no appetite, and trouble sleeping. It’s like this grip of fear has completely taken over your body and you HAVE NO CONTROL OVER IT and can’t make it go away or talk yourself out of it. This may also progress into a full blown panic attack. These symptoms make living a normal life difficult when you are in a state of anxiety.
Let me give you an example of two extremes, my husband and I. My husband has always been the easy-going, everything will be ok, its not a big deal-type person. I’m not sure he’s ever worried about anything, much less dealt with anxiety. I am the COMPLETE OPPOSITE. When my first child was about 11 months old he got sick. He had only had a little cold and ear infection all the way up until this point, so this was the first ‘big’ sickness. He threw up and developed a rash. I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO DIE. Of course realistically, however, he just had a virus, but you couldn’t tell that to this momma with anxiety. I freaked. I was so worried about him! My mind instantly went in to “what if” mode. What if he keeps throwing up? What if he gets dehydrated? What if I have to take him to the ER (this was the ultimate fear at the time)? What if they couldn’t find a vein to start an IV? What if they have to stick him more than once?
Yes I am a nurse, and if it hadn’t been my kid, I’m sure I would have just put my nurse hat on and explained to whoever was sick that everything would be fine and I’d just move on, but in this situation all logical nurse-thinking was out the window, and I was wearing my big fat momma hat. My body tensed up, I couldn’t eat anything, my heart raced, and I would just sit and be fixated on his every move and whimper, worried about what would happen next. The thoughts of worse case scenario wouldn’t leave my head, even though he was acting totally fine. THEN HE PUKED AGAIN. That was it for me. I called the on call pediatrician (cause it was a Sunday), and you know what she said to me? “If he gets worse TAKE HIM TO THE ER!” That just kissed all sanity that I had left goodbye. I was literally in the fetal position on the floor next to him sick to my stomach because the anxiety had made me so scared and tense and there was nothing I could do to make it go away.
And do you want to know what my husband said about all of this? “He’ll be fine. Why are you freaking out?” He wasn’t the least bit worried!
Of course, my son did get better quickly, and there was no reason for me to get so scared and freaked out, but the anxiety just come over me and I couldn’t control it. It has been almost 7 years since this happened, and I have learned many effective ways at managing my anxiety now, which I will be sharing with you in future posts.