Stress Versus Anxiety

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Transcript for Stress Versus Anxiety:

Welcome impactful parent! Today we’re going to talk about what is the difference between stress and anxiety.

Hello.  My name is Kristina Campos, and I am the founder of The Impactful Parent.  Every week I come on here and answer one of your questions live.  If you have a question for me for next week, please submit it by DMing me or emailing me at All submissions are kept anonymous.  And don’t forget to push the subscribe button, like this post, and forward it to a friend that could use this information.  Now let’s get our questions today!

This week’s question is: What is the difference between stress and anxiety? How do I know the difference so I can get my child the help they need?

I love this question! You are not alone if you don’t know how to identify the difference between stress and anxiety in your teen because, frankly, it is difficult! Teens present a unique front that makes identifying the differences much more difficult because their brain development hasn’t matured completely. Teens don’t know how to combat or deal with stress efficiently.  They simply don’t have the experience or coping tools yet. Some of these skills are acquired through experience and other skills parents need to help and guide teens through to learn. When teens don’t know how to handle the stress in their life, they often resort to visible frustration, tantrums, and overreacting. In addition, the symptoms of stress and mild anxiety are the same!  Some of those symptoms include sleep disturbances, headaches, stomach problems, muscle tension, tiredness, and the list goes on. These reactions look like anxiety, but it is important to know the difference so you can help your child more efficiently.  So today, I’m going to give you four tips for identifying the differences between stress and anxiety.

Stress versus Anxiety

Stress versus Anxiety

Tip 1 for identifying stress versus anxiety: Anxiety presents itself as an IRRATIONAL fear when the body sees something scary. Let me give you an example. It is normal to be afraid when we see something scary.  If I am hiking on a mountain trail and see a bobcat, it would be natural for anyone to get stressed and nervous in that potentially dangerous situation.  Now take the same scenario, but instead of seeing a bobcat on my hiking path, I see a domestic cat. With anxiety, the body still has a reaction to that seeing a bobcat.  That is irrational, and that irrational reaction is a cause for concern.  The overreactive reaction is likely a sign of anxiety. Again, what you are looking for is an overblown reaction of fear to nothing or very little threat.

Tip 2 for identifying stress versus anxiety: Anxiety is chronic. Big or small items, it doesn’t matter. Anxiety is a constant belief that things will go wrong. With normal stress, once the stressor is removed, a person should start to feel normal again.  Let’s take, for example, my hiking trip again.  Once I am safe at home, and away from the bobcat, my stress levels should decrease.  However, suppose I have anxiety and not just stress. In that case, I might still believe I am in danger even though I am not hiking anymore.  I might start being afraid of all hikes and walks outside of my home because I may fear running into a bobcat.

Tip 3 for identifying stress versus anxiety: Anxiety interferes with the person’s life. Stress comes and goes, but anxiety disrupts the normal joy of living and prevents the person from enjoying life. Perhaps your child is always hiding in their room, avoiding social situations, or maybe the anxiety is even interfering with daily functioning because their fears are so intense and disproportionate to the situation. Maybe your child is constantly in a state of aggression.  Fears come out in either a fight mode or flight mode.  Children will often be seen hiding and trying to avoid their fears or standing up to the fear in a high alert, fighting state.  Either way, their reaction is exhausting and will interfere with your child enjoying life.  Maybe they are avoiding things, people, or activities that they once enjoyed? Their anxiety is so chronic and intense that the person can’t be happy for long periods. The anxiety reaction is disruptive to their everyday living.

Tip 4 for identifying stress versus anxiety: Typical means of helping your child calm down and regulate their emotions just don’t work.  Perhaps you’ve already tried helping your child because you can see that they are destressed often, but everything you try simply doesn’t work.  Taking away the stressors doesn’t help.  Avoidance of people, places, or activities is still strong and a non-negotiable for your child. Your child never accepts the reassurance and encouragement that you give. No matter what you do to comfort your child, they still can’t calm down, and they can’t think logically about their fears.  You don’t want to engage in power struggles with your child because, frankly, they aren’t going to get you anywhere.  With anxiety, your child will likely get mad at you for your attempts to comfort them.

Stress versus Anxiety

Stress versus Anxiety

So what next? If you think your child has anxiety, it may be time to get them professional help.  Mental health professionals specialize in these types of things. They can help your child by talk therapy and teaching coping skills.  I also offer an online program to help parents teach their children how to control their anxiety and big emotions.  To find out more about my DIY online program, you can go to or type ANXIETY inside my DM. My robot will automatically send you the link you need.  Even better, take my FREE anxiety webinar and discover the step-by-step process you need to help your child!  The webinar is completely free, so there is nothing to lose, and I am sure you’ll find some insights about helping your child that will be worth your time.  To watch the webinar go to or type ANXIOUS CHILD in my DM, and my bot will send you the link you need.


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