What's the difference between worry and anxiety?
By Intermountain Healthcare
Nov 4, 2020
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Have you ever worried about leaving the iron on or forgetting to lock your car? Or do you worry about not finishing a task on time? Or worry that your job was in jeopardy? Everyone experiences these feelings from time to time.
Worry and anxiety are a part of the human experience and can be big or small. Everyone goes through this spectrum and it’s completely normal.
The good news is there are many tools and resources to help you manage worry and anxiety. The key is to recognize what is going on and use available tools to deal with your current circumstances.
Worrying is feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem.You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. Worry is...
Different from worry, anxiety is the reaction to situations perceived as stressful or dangerous. Anxiety can...
Think about worry and anxiety as the opposite sides of a spectrum. One way to know if your worry has moved into anxiety is your ability to put the brakes on and get it under control. If you can get it under control, it’s more likely to be worry. If getting is under control is harder, this could be a sign that it’s moved into anxiety.
Your brain is hard wired to react to threats in one of three ways:
When anxiety hits, you’re likely not aware of how rapidly this all happens. Since your logical mind hasn’t engaged yet, the emotional mind takes over and sends a message to all body systems alerting them to danger – real or imagined. With anxiety, the mind still perceives the
threat even after it’s gone.
This can start a cycle of the body tensing and sending a message to the brain that danger is near. The brain fights back and floods the body with more hormones and chemicals, which make the body more charged.
Mindfulness experts recommend to not fight it, not judge it, allow it to run its course, and work on calming the body and quieting the mind. There are three components to anxiety:
Worry on the other hand, may involve all three, but they aren’t exaggerated. Once the situation is over, you can calm yourself and resume normal activities. With worry you can link emotion and logic. Anxiety tends to linger and disconnect emotion and logic. It may have the residual effect of stopping you from ever doing that same thing again.
Here are two examples that help illustrate the difference between worry and anxiety:
As you repeat a phrase that’s important to you, it begins to have a calming effect.
We all experience feelings of worry and anxiety from time to time. This is a natural part of being human. It’s how we cope with these feelings that can help us manage our worry and anxiety.