Basic Information

Anxiety is an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear that becomes a part of one’s everyday life and occurs regardless of situation/environment.  There may not be an identifiable stressor and the person can become anxious for no reason, or for irrational reasons that do not fit the reality of the situation.

Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.  It can lead to cognitive (thinking) and/or physiological (physical) disruptions.  Typically, a person can identify a stressor (a situational/environmental condition) that created the stress reaction.

A person is diagnosed with an anxiety condition, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or a Phobia, if the symptom experience is intense and pervasive enough to significantly interfere with a person’s daily functioning.  The anxiety concern must affect a person’s functioning in multiple areas, including academics, social life, work, and being able to effective care for one’s self.  About 20% of people who believe they have anxiety actually end up being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

If someone believes they have experienced a significant disruption to their daily functioning due to anxiety, then it is best to pursue mental health counseling for the concern.  In this case, a trained professional can meet with the person to determine what clinical remediation options would best fit for the person.  These options could be ongoing talk therapy, medication, coping skills training, group counseling, and referrals to other professionals to determine the scope and depth of the problem.


If unsure if the concern is stress, anxiety, or an anxiety disorder, check out this free, online screening at the Student Counseling & Psychological Services website. 

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Last modified: 10/15/2019