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What’s the Difference Between Anxiety and PTSD?

Figuring out the difference between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma disorders can be a challenge. Many of them share similarities and also co-occur with other things, including substance use. Learn the main differences and how to know if anxiety or PTSD is affecting a loved one.

Signs and Diagnosis of GAD

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by worry and anxiety at an excessive level. Many people experience some level of worry or anxiety in life, but someone suffering from GAD feels worry and anxiety more often than not and may also experience:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Feeling easily tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep issues

GAD is different from other anxiety disorders in that symptoms of GAD must be present for at least six months prior to a diagnosis.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder which sometimes occurs after an individual witnesses a traumatic event that involves an actual or threatened death or serious injury. In response, the person feels cared, hopeless, or horrified as they re-experience the trauma for at least a month after the incident. Some of the following may occur:

  • Mental images
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Dreams
  • Flashbacks

It can be hard to talk or think about the initial trauma. They will avoid places, people, or things which remind them of it. They will lose interest in things they once cared about and detach from others. Emotions may appear blunted and the person envisions a short future where they don’t see possibilities. They may also:

  • Have sleep disturbances
  • Feel irritable
  • Have angry outbursts
  • Seem hyper-vigilant
  • Experience a startle response

Telling GAD and PTSD apart is tricky. The prevalence of co-occurring GAD and PTSD is possible. GAD is defined more broadly than PTSD, which makes it harder to diagnose as well. A person who suffers from GAD and experiences a traumatic event may be more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD due to a pre-existing tendency towards excessive worry and anxiety magnified by traumatic events.

Suffering from PTSD or GAD can be debilitating. If you are struggling to survive and stay afloat while coping with anxiety, stress, or substance use, call us. We will help you put some of the pieces back together so you can live a life filled with hope. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964