Youth and stress

Youth and mental health disorders


Anxiety disorders

Of the 176 respondents, 40% have an opinion about what anxiety disorders are, and of this group, 15% believe it has to do with stress. Is there a difference between stress and anxiety disorders or are they the same phenomenon? In order to shed light on this question, we asked Dr. Sonia Lupien, director and founder of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress and scientific director of the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, as well as Dr. André Marchand, researcher at the Fernand-Seguin Research Centre of the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital.

First and foremost, anxiety is the fear of fear. It can be caused by either a personality trait or as a passing state. In effect, certain individuals have anxious personalities and so have a tendency to be anxious no matter what situations they find themselves in. Their anxiety persists and is not specific to any particular event. However, others will experience transient anxiety because of a specific event. For example, before a medical admissions exam, certain individuals will be nervous, but their anxiety will disappear once the exam is finished.

On the other hand, stress is not a personality trait, but rather an organism’s response to situations that are incontrollable, unpredictable, novel and/or that threaten their ego. However, there is a link between stress and anxiety. Effectively, people who have anxious personalities will generally have stress responses that are more elevated.

It is important to understand that like stress, anxiety is a normal reaction for organisms since without it, we would not be able to function. In fact, we would not even be capable of detecting potential dangers. For example, we would not bother looking both ways when crossing the street. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming, we are talking about anxiety disorders. There are different types of anxiety disorders (panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, specific phobias) that are characterized by a loss of control, fear or an anxiety-provoking event. The different types of anxiety disorders vary in terms of duration and intensity.

Remember that like stress, anxiety touches individuals of every age. In brief, the young and not so young are not protected from anxiety disorders.

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