This Is the Real Difference Between Regular Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder

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Mental health used to be a taboo topic, but now it’s freely discussed in Twitter memes and cheeky Facebook posts. A lot of people refer to their “anxiety” in casual conversation, but there’s a difference between regular anxiety and an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a universal human experience. Everyone experiences it in some form, and it has its purpose; it’s an evolutionary adaptation.

“From an evolutionary perspective, it helped us stay alive, triggering that fight-or-flight response,” psychiatrist Joseph Baskin explained to HuffPost.

“It can also be motivating, like you’re anxious about a deadline.”

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However, an anxiety disorder occurs when one’s anxiety becomes so significant that it interferes with a person’s life.

“Most people are anxious before a job interview, but for the person who has an anxiety disorder, they may cancel the interview altogether due to their fear about what the interviewer may think about them,” psychologist Cheryl Carmin explained.

But just because everybody casually refers to their anxiety now doesn’t mean that they don’t have a disorder. Anxiety is becoming more and more common; it now affects about 40 million Americans each year, or 18% of the population. Two of the most common forms are phobias and social anxiety.

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Joseph recommends getting an evaluation if your anxiety is “sustained and unremitting” and keeps you from “living your normal life.”

But also, you don’t need to reach some arbitrary level of severity in order to seek help for your anxiety. If your anxiety is causing you distress, then it’s worth taking seriously. Only a mental health professional can diagnose you with an anxiety disorder, and it’s very worth going to see one if you’re feeling like you may need help.