What other conditions have the same symptoms as stress?
The physical symptoms of anxiety disorders mirror many of those of stress, including a fast heart rate; rapid, shallow breathing; and increased muscle tension. Anxiety is an emotional disorder, however, and is characterized by feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, fear, or panic. Unlike stress, the triggers for anxiety are not necessarily or even usually associated with specific stressful or threatening conditions. Some individuals with anxiety disorders have numerous physical complaints, such as headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, dizziness, and chest pain. Severe cases of anxiety disorders are debilitating, and interfere with career, family, and social spheres.
Everybody knows what it’s like to feel anxious � the butterflies in your stomach before a first date, the tension you feel when someone important to you is angry with you, the way your heart pounds if you’re in danger. Anxiety rouses you to action. It gears you up to face a threatening situation. It makes you study harder for an exam, and keeps you on your toes when you’re making a speech. In general, it helps you cope.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reaction to a very traumatic event: it is actually classified as an anxiety disorder. The event that precipitates PTSD is usually outside the norm of human experience, such as intense combat or sexual assault. The patient struggles to forget the traumatic event and frequently develops emotional numbness and event-related amnesia. Often, however, there is a mental flashback, and the patient re-experiences the painful circumstance in the form of intrusive dreams and disturbing thoughts and memories, which resemble or recall the trauma. Other symptoms may include lack of pleasure in formerly enjoyed activities, hopelessness, irritability, mood swings, sleep problems, inability to concentrate, and an excessive startle-response to noise.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.