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Stress vs Anxiety vs Burnout

We often use many of the terms related to stress, anxiety, and burnout interchangeably, and some of the symptoms overlap, so it can be helpful to spend some time understanding the similarities and differences between the 3 conditions. Here is a chart and description of stress vs anxiety vs burnout that may help.
Chart with 3 columns in blue, pink, purple, describing the similarities and differences between stress, anxiety, and burnout.

Stress

Stress is how we respond to internal or external stressors such as demands, pressures, challenging events, difficult situations, etc. 

Stress can involve changes that affect nearly every system of the body and influence how we feel and behave. 

Our body’s response to stressors can be psychological (in our mind), physiological (in our body), or both; stressors can be short term or long term.

In general, normal stress usually goes away once stressors change or go away. If sources of stress can not be eliminated or responses to stressors can not be managed, then stress can become chronic stress.

Stress can also become a trigger for anxiety.


Anxiety

Anxiety is a future-oriented feeling in our mind of worry, apprehension, or fear accompanied by physical symptoms of tension in our body. It is a reaction to perceived anticipated threats in the future.

Anxiety and worry are normal feelings to experience, especially when we are under stress, and normal anxiety generally does not interfere with daily functioning over the long term. In fact, normal levels of anxiety can help us to prioritize and focus attention where it is needed and can motivate us to problem-solve and get things done.

Normal anxiety is not always negative, though it may be thought of and experienced that way.


Burnout

Burnout is defined as physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion and is often the result of performing at a high level until stress and tension take a toll on one’s health.  It usually results in decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.

It is most often observed in professionals who work in service-oriented professions that experience chronic and high levels of stress, in particular from an overburdening workload. In fact, burnout is most often considered a condition that happens in an occupational context, and is usually only classified as burnout if other mood disorders have first been ruled out.

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