Anxiety vs Worry – what’s the difference?

Anxiety and worry have many interchangeable factors surrounding discomfort and unease, it can all be quite confusing. But what are the fundamental differences, and how can we distinguish them in ourselves?

Dads are noticing a rise in their anxieties and overwhelm. Our research asking How are Dads getting on in a changed workplace suggests that 67% of those polled are noticing a rise in their anxieties but a third of those aren’t sure what is triggering their anxiety response.

You can read and download the research right here ?

Now, on with the article…

What is worry?

Humans, as the intelligent beings we are, possess the power to think ahead and imagine our futures. This can be very useful for planning, organising and preparing. But, like many things, inordinate thinking ahead can feel overwhelming, and cause excessive worrying…

‘Worry is a chain of thoughts and images, negatively affect-laden and relatively uncontrollable. It represents an attempt to engage in mental problem-solving on an issue whose outcome is uncertain but contains the possibility of one or more negative outcomes. Consequently, worry relates closely to the fear process.’(Borkovec, Robinson, Pruzinsky and DePree, 1983)

We all experience worry sometimes.  Life can be stressful, right? And subsequently, a bit of worrying is inevitable. But why do we worry about things that might never happen?

Our minds have a negative bias causing us to jump to the worst outcome. Essentially, this negative bias happens because humans are impacted more by negative situations; They learn more deeply from them and remember them more than positive situations.

There are Two Different Types of Worry:

Practical worries

These worries address real problems that need resolving. In this instance, worry can be useful in helping us to address issues and get sorted.

Hypothetical worries

Also known as catastrophising. Hypothetical worries are unlikely worst case, negative future scenarios. These types of worries can be most detrimental, and lead to spiralling.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is feelings of stress and worry that are intense, affecting us physically and mentally. It might create feelings of dread, make you feel irritable or detached from the world and friends and family.

Severe anxiety might be classed as an anxiety disorder.

There are different types of anxiety disorders:

There is also an emerging eco-anxiety affecting people due to climate change.

Anxiety disorders impair function and get in the way of your day-to-day life. The main warning sign of an anxiety disorder is excessive and uncontrollable worrying. Particularly, worrying about unlikely hypothetical situations or very specific things. If you are concerned that you or a loved one are displaying symptoms of an anxiety disorder, contact your GP.

So, What’s the Difference Between Worry and Anxiety?

  • Worry is a rational response to life, and anxiety is irrational. Having worries is a normal fight or flight response that encourages you to resolve issues, act with urgency or protect yourself.
  • Worry resides mostly in the brain, whereas anxiety manifests itself more physically. The stress hormones, such as cortisol, can cause symptoms such as shakiness, breathlessness, nausea, headaches, body aches, sweating etc. Excessive worrying can cause headaches and stomach-ache. Hence the saying ‘I’m worried sick!’ But anxiety symptoms present themselves much more severely and regularly.

Anxiety compromise’s ability to function, worry does not.

Ways to Manage Worry and Anxiety at Home

Create a worry tree

his is a great way to guide yourself through the worry and come to a realistic outcome about what you can and can’t do in that moment. It is a structure that, once practiced enough, can be used in the mind to work through worries on the go!

what is a worry tree?

Mindfulness and breathwork.
These are good ways to recentre yourself when you feel panicky, or wobbly. Grounding yourself in the moment, shifting your focus and stabilising your breath can help regulate your heartbeat and calm you down. Check out our article: An Introduction to Mindfulness for Busy Working Dads for guidance.

Talk it out.
Talking your worries through with a friend or family member helps you to rationalise your thoughts and reach solution quicker. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to let your worries slide and re-evaluate your situation. Overthinking things privately can make a problem or worry feel larger and more suffocating than it need be!

This could be anything that brings you happiness. Time in nature is a popular choice. The University of York did research that found that nature based activities can ‘significantly improve mood and reduce anxiety’. Maybe it’s cooking, cleaning, sports or spending time with your kids. Whatever it is, do it with the intention of clearing your mind, and shifting focus!

Summary and takeaways for helping with your worry vs anxiety…
We all experience some level of anxiety and worry in our lives. It is important to know when your worries are getting out of control, stopping you living your life fully or affecting your wellbeing, and to seek help. Life is a stressful and confusing ride, let’s look after ourselves and each other the best we can!

Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.

Supporting Men & Dads in the workplace

Download our free guide to help employers create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for men and dads.