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Worry or Anxiety?

Admittedly, "anxiety" seems to have become a buzz word in our society much so, that you may see the occasional eye roll when you mention to someone that you grapple with this commonly tossed around word. Anxiety and worry are used so casually that most are guilty of using them interchangeably and this adds to even more confusion.

So what is the difference, if any? Worry is the moment of concern I may have that I locked my car keys in the car, or that I mixed up the kids sandwiches in their lunch boxes, or that my father has to go to his doctor's appointment by himself today. Worry is common and often not lasting for most people. There are some we call "worry warts" because they seem to always be worried about something, but the worry is not debilitating in any way.

Anxiety is extreme worry or apprehension that often rears its ugly head when we encounter stressful situations. Based on this definition, it would be fair to say that everyone, at some point and time in their lives, experiences anxiety as well. This may occur when we realize we did indeed lock the keys in the car and subsequently, have no plan for how we will pick up the kids or get home. Or the anxious thoughts I may have when realizing little Sarah may eat Sam's sandwich before checking it and she is allergic to the peanut butter in the sandwich I just gave her. These stressors create an increased worry and border on fearful apprehension about what could happen if the identified problem isn't resolved.

So if everyone experiences worry and everyone probably even experiences anxiety at some point, why do people get so worked up at the mention of anxiety?

In today's society, when the going gets tough, some are likely to make excuses for failures or bad behaviors. Is that the problem? Maybe. There is no doubt about the fact that when anxiety is at its worst, it can be debilitating and actually be categorized as any one of a number of anxiety disorders which should be assessed and worked on with a therapist. That being said, anxiety doesn't have to stay debilitating. It doesn't have to be used as an excuse for our inability to do things or sustain successful relationships. Though just my personal opinion based on observation and what clients have reported to me in the last few years, I believe society simply doesn't want to see it used as an excuse. For those critics who haven't battled an anxiety disorder, but merely deal with anxiety on occasion, I challenge you to consider a moment in your life when you felt most anxious and consider how it would feel to wake up feeling that way and go try to go to sleep feeling that way, day in and day out. And for those of you battling anxiety disorders, work with a professional regularly to get help. You don't have to live this way forever. Progress can be made.

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