When Stress is Actually Anxiety

Often people know they are experiencing worry and stress but aren’t sure if it is normal or mental health problem. They don’t know if they need to seek counseling for help with a diagnosable disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or if they’ll be able to work through it on their own. Individuals end up ineffectively coping with generalized anxiety disorder because of a fear of seeking counseling, fear of receiving a mental health diagnosis or for other issues as simple as time or money.  They may cope by avoiding social interaction, avoiding taking on new tasks at work or withdrawing from day-to-day life.  These coping skills are ineffective because they don’t address the core issues of the anxiety, only masking the fear and worry for short periods of time.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

First, reach out to your counselor to talk about your symptoms that you are feeling.  Most often clients describe symptoms such as rushing heartbeat, constant worry, overwhelming stress, or feeling shaky. Your counselor will be able to identify these concerns and clarify for you the specific issues that are causing these feelings within you.

Once you’ve addressed your major concerns with your counselor they will help identify or rule out any symptoms that may be associated with generalized anxiety disorder.  In doing so your counselor can easily help you determine if you have a diagnosis or if you’re experiencing typical stress.  The National Institute of Mental Health lists symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder on their website as:

  • Excessive worry most days that causes significant problems in areas of life such as social interaction, school or work
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Still Unsure?

It’s hard to really know if you have anxiety.  When going through the symptoms list you might not be sure about a diagnosis.  Here are some other situations that you may relate to.  They could be more helpful in determining if you have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

  • The worry and fear of generalized anxiety often interfere with daily life and have a significant influence on the way an individual goes about their day. While typical worry is often passing and can be overlooked when other issues or situations arise.
  • The worry and nervousness associated with generalized anxiety disorder often has no precipitants or originating cause that has triggered you to feel distress. The stress you feel may come on at random during unexpected times.
  • You also may have frequent physical symptoms that you haven’t yet associated with generalized anxiety disorder. These physical symptoms may show up as irritable bowel syndrome, muscle aches with an unknown origin, excessive sweating or nausea.

Next Steps

The first step is determining or ruling out a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis.  Next, you and your counselor can work on a treatment plan to determine how best to address your symptoms.  Common goals or objectives for generalized anxiety disorder that you may be interested in working through may include determining contributing factors to your worry or nervousness, decreasing feelings of stress in your daily life or learning coping skills to help when you feel physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

Set up Counseling

Therapists know that reaching out for counseling services for generalized anxiety disorder can cause fear and worry.  Therefore, we work to not only support you during the counseling process but also during times in which you need to set your first appointment or have questions about follow-up appointments.  Reach out with any questions to megan@pillarcounseling.com or call 636-465-9233 to speak directly to a counselor who can walk you through the process of setting up your first appointment and give you more information on what a first appointment might consist of.


NIMH – Anxiety Disorders for additional information on generalized anxiety disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

MentalHealth.gov – Anxiety Disorders. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/anxiety-disorders