Being Anxious vs Having Anxiety: What’s The Difference?

Last Update on May 6, 2022 : Published on May 6, 2022

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, anyone can experience anxiety. But this doesn’t mean that everyone has an anxiety disorder. Having an understanding of anxiousness vs anxiety is a must because it helps you understand your thoughts, feelings and actions and where they are taking you.

In a stressful situation it’s natural for us to be stressed, worried, afraid or anxious, it only becomes a disorder when these feelings become uncontrollable and begin to interfere with your daily life.

Why is it important to know how anxiety disorders are different from normal anxiety, you ask?

Well, knowing the difference between anxiety and anxious thoughts is important because it helps you firstly, in understanding your state of mind, secondly, in identifying your symptoms sooner and lastly, in applying the correct anxiety management technique.

Without taking any more time, let’s address the elephant in the room…

Difference between Anxiety and Anxious Thoughts (Anxiety vs Being Anxious)

anxiety vs anxious

If you are someone who can easily and frequently get anxious, I am sure you have lots of doubts about the difference between being anxious and having anxiety. Let’s begin with understanding anxiety disorder first.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by uncontrollable and unreasonable worry and fear about something that stops you from functioning properly.

There are various types of anxiety disorders depending on the different triggers, such as; general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, phobias, separation anxiety disorder, etc.

If you feel anxious around similar stressors it doesn’t necessarily mean you have anxiety disorder. It becomes a disorder only when you experience excessive and unrealistic worry about a certain trigger even in the absence of it.

Whereas when ‘being anxious’ is concerned the worry you have about the trigger is controllable and subsidies in the absence of trigger.

Being anxious is a natural response to stress, it’s ought to happen. So, next time when you are being anxious, wait for the stressor to leave, if anxiety continues and affects your quality of life perhaps it’s time to get yourself examined for an anxiety disorder.

How Is Anxiety Disorder Different From Everyday Anxiety (anxiousness vs anxiety)?


Everyday anxiety is all about the worries related to small things like getting to work on time, taking care of your child, meeting new people and some other uncertain things.

Our life is full of uncertainty which can cause anxiety but you must know the key difference between anxiety vs anxiousness, that is, having anxiety stops you from functioning properly and being anxious only causes temporary hesitation and anticipation.

According to some studies, anxiety can cause you to have uncontrolled anticipatory reactions to uncertainty. In case of anxiousness, your reaction to uncertainty is quite in control, you are worried but you’re not catastrophic.

The best way to differentiate between having anxiety and being anxious is to answer these 3 questions with a YES or NO. Simple? If it is a Yes, it indicates ‘having anxiety’. If No, you’re just being anxious!

Q1. Is my anxiety out of proportion?

Q2. Is my reaction age inappropriate?

Q3. Is my anxiety interfering with my regular functioning?

If you answer yes to all these questions, there is a high chance of you struggling with an anxiety disorder. And if you’ve answered NO, it’s just a normal reaction to stress. If your answers are mixed, there is no harm in getting professional guidance.

For an even better understanding of normal anxiety vs anxiety disorder, let’s look at an example of the difference between anxiety and anxious…

Anxiety VS Anxious: Example

For instance, it’s a normal day to work, you wake up and you’re worried about reaching the office on time, are you dressed properly? Is your laptop bag ready? You have a presentation and you want to be the best version of yourself. You reach the office, the presentation is done and your worry has vanished!

For another instance, it’s a normal day to work, you wake you with worry of reaching the office on time, your dress and many more things. Throughout the day you have intrusive thoughts about various things that happen every day. Come back home anxious and sleep with worry in your mind.

Comparing both these instances, the first one had a cause, the worry was in control and anxiety vanished right after the trigger was gone. In the second case, there was no certain cause, anxiety was uncontrollable and excessive worry remained irrespective of the presence or absence of any stressor.

What do you think? Which one is anxiety and which one is anxious?

I’m sure you know it, the first instance is ‘being anxious’ and the second one is ‘having anxiety’!

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog interesting and helpful. I also hope you now have no difficulty pointing out the difference between anxiety and anxious thoughts. Anxiousness is often confused with anxiety disorder, so share this blog with your friends and family so that we all know the difference (normal anxiety vs anxiety disorder).

Here are some more articles from Calm Sage that might interest you;

Fear vs Anxiety: The Differences You Need To Know

What Is the Difference Between Trait Anxiety And State Anxiety?

Thanks for reading.

Take care & stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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