Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are a natural part of the fight or flight response and the body’s reaction to danger. The purpose of this response is to ensure a person is alert, focused, and ready to deal with a threat.

Both stress and anxiety are normal, although they can sometimes overwhelm people.

This article explains the differences and similarities between stress and anxiety and looks at treatment and management strategies. It also outlines when someone might benefit from medical attention.

Differences between stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are both a part of the body’s natural fight or flight response. When someone feels under threat, their body releases stress hormones.

Stress hormones cause the heart to beat faster, resulting in more blood pumping to the organs and limbs.

This response allows a person to be ready to either fight or run away. They also breathe faster, and their blood pressure goes up.

At the same time, a person’s senses become sharper, and their body releases nutrients into the blood to ensure all parts have the energy they need.

This process happens really quickly, and experts call it stress. Anxiety is the body’s response to that stress.

Many people will recognize anxiety as the feeling of distress, unease, or dread that someone has before a significant event. It keeps them alert and aware.

The fight or flight response can kick in when someone faces a physical or emotional, real or perceived threat. While it can be useful, for some people, it can interfere with everyday life.


There are many similarities between the symptoms of stress and anxiety. When someone is stressed, they may experience:

  • faster heartbeat
  • faster breathing
  • anxious thoughts
  • moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • general unhappiness
  • a feeling of being overwhelmed
  • loneliness
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea or constipation

When someone is anxious, they might experience:

  • faster heartbeat
  • faster breathing
  • a feeling of unease or dread
  • sweating
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • nervousness
  • tenseness
  • restlessness