Stress Vs. Anxiety Vs. Mood Swings: How To Differentiate Between Them

Do you know how to identify whether you are stressed, anxious or having mood swings? Find out here.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Jun 01, 2022 18:12 IST
Stress Vs. Anxiety Vs. Mood Swings: How To Differentiate Between Them

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Mental health is slowly, but steadily coming into the mainstream consideration of health, beyond just physical ailments. According to WHO, 7.5% of Indians suffer from mental disorders, which has risen since the pandemic in 2020. 38 million Indians are victims of anxiety disorders, and India accounts for 36.6% of suicides, globally. Despite these red flags, a discussion on mental health is often either pushed under the carpet or there is a lack of understanding of the plaguing issue. This is even more applicable for teenagers and young adults who are unable to differentiate between a mood swing, stress, and anxiety. It is critical to understand the difference between them for an accurate solution. Presently, a lot of symptoms are either confused with physical ailments or are deemed as a ‘teenage phase’, when in reality the issue could be much deeper. 

How To Differentiate Between Stress, Anxiety and Mood Swings?

A lot of people do not understand the fine line between stress, anxiety and mood swings. This is why they fail to get aid for the concerned problem. Scroll down for more information.


According to expert Neeraj Kumar, co-founder of Peakmind, stress can be understood as a reaction to life's challenges and experiences. An unfavourable or new situation can lead to stress. Needless to say, teenagers, who are grappling with life and encountering new challenges are highly susceptible to stress. The reasons could be ranging from personal to academic to peer pressure, or anything else. The physical symptoms to watch out for in order to gauge stress are sleep deprivation, indigestion, lack of appetite, or irritability, among others.

Also Read: Having Emotional Stress? Here Is How to Deal With It

Difference between stress anxiety mood swings


Anxiety refers to an emotional response to the fear of unknown outcomes or situations. It is synonymous with feelings such as nervousness, apprehension, worry, concern, and a strong sense of underconfidence and pessimism. Coping with mounting academic pressures, changing preferences of teenagers,  and trying to “fit in” by society standards often make the young minds anxious. The symptoms of stress and anxiety can overlap such as digestive or sleeping issues, irritability, feeling fatigued, difficulty in concentration, feelings of fear, and more.

Mood swings 

Mood swings typically cause sudden or rapid changes in one’s mood, which may or may not be prompted by external factors. An old memory or a bad experience can also trigger mood swings. Mood swings are generally a sign of an underlying concern such as bipolar disorder, depression, or menopause and might not be as common as stress and anxiety. While it is natural to feel happy or sad or angry once in a while, the frequency should not be too high, too sudden, and most importantly, too extreme.

Also Read: Control Mood Swings With These 4 Easy Techniques


How to handle stress, anxiety and mood swings?

The good news is- there is a solution to each of these mental health concerns and all that one has to do is catch the early signs. One such method is to ask the appropriate questions, such as :

  • Is the current situation beyond my ability to cope? If the response is yes, it could lead to stress
  • Am I feeling an impending sense of doom? If yes, the person is undergoing anxiety.
  • Are my mood changes so extreme that it is affecting my daily life? If yes, it would be identified as mood swings.

Today, there are many qualified professionals – in the form of psychologists (counsellors), psychiatrists, and trained educators primarily, who have the expertise to deal with such fragile concerns. If you or anyone you know shows symptoms, do not self-diagnose and jump to conclusions. Reach out to an experienced mental health professional immediately, since they are more adept at understanding the nuances and providing timely and relevant help.

Also Read: Keeping Indoor Plants Can Reduce Stress, Read More Health Benefits

Difference between stress anxiety mood swings

As different as each is from the other, they can also be managed through holistic lifestyle changes including eating healthy, working out, getting adequate sleep, positive relationships and balancing the activities to ensure coping. 

As per the Yerkes-Dodson law, one requires optimum levels of arousal in the form of stress or anxiety, that is neither too high, nor low, for maximizing performance. Stress and anxiety are not just negative and if harnessed properly can unlock new potentials for an individual.

A more concrete solution to understand and address these issues proactively throughout is in developing capabilities (skills) like Emotional regulation, Positive Mindset, Handling Negativity, Positive relationships, Conflict management, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness to deal with stress, anxiety and mood swings.

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