NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, November 24, 2022

What's the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?

The words "fear" and "anxiety" are often used interchangeably.  While fear and anxiety often occur together, they're not the same.

What's the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?
While fear is an emotional response to a known threat, anxiety is more of a vague feeling of apprehension.  Anxiety can also be a response to an unknown threat.  

For instance, with regard to fear, if someone approaches you in an aggressive and menacing way, your response will be one of fear.  This person is a specific, real, present and immediate possible danger.

What is the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?

Anxiety is often about an anticipated event.  

For instance, if you're afraid of flying and you have an upcoming flight, you will probably feel anxious about the upcoming flight.  When you're on the plane, you will experience fear because it's happening in the here and now.

The distinctions between fear and anxiety might be subtle, but it will help you to be able t distinguish the difference.

Symptoms of Anxiety:
Anxiety can cause some or all of the following symptoms:
  • muscle pain and tension
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • chest pain
  • excessive sweating
  • shaking and trembling
  • racing heart
  • upset stomach
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • panic
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
Fear can cause anxiety and vice versa.

Fear and Anxiety Produce a Stress Response
Both fear and anxiety produce the fight or flight response.  The reason this is an important automatic response is because if you were in real danger, this response would help you to survive.

For instance, if you were on a path and you saw a snake, your automatic response would be to jump away before you even thought about it.  In times of danger, you don't want to stop to think--you need to react quickly to protect yourself.  Even a microsecond can make a difference in a dangerous situation.

On the other hand, if, after you had the flight response, you realized that what you thought was a snake was actually a stick, your body would start to calm down because you no longer need to flee.

There is also the freeze response which occurs when you can neither fight nor flee (see my article: Overcoming the Freeze Response).

Self Help Tips For Coping With Fear and Anxiety
There are certain things that you can do to overcome fear and anxiety.  See my articles:

Journal Writing to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
Learning to Stay Calm During Stressful Times
Finding Inner Peace During Uncertain Times
Self Care: Feeling Entitled to Take Care of Yourself
The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation
Self Reflection and Basic Mindfulness
Research Shows That Meditation Can Change Your Brain
Learning to Relax: Square Breathing
Staying Calm When You're in the Middle of Chaos
Finding Moments of Peace During Stressful Times
Self Soothing Techniques to Use When You're Feeling Distressed
Learning to Relax: Going on an Internal Retreat
Discovering the Quiet Place Within Yourself

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're suffering with chronic fear or anxiety, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional, who has experience helping clients to overcome fear and anxiety (see my articles: Psychotherapy For Anxiety Disorders and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Rather than struggling on your own, you could learn how to overcome your fear or anxiety, so you could lead a calmer, more peaceful life with a sense of well-being.

If your fear and anxiety is related to unresolved trauma, you could benefit from working with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating trauma.

trauma therapist is a licensed psychotherapist who is specialist trained specifically in helping clients to overcome both trauma related to one-time events as well as developmental trauma, which is repeated trauma and loss from childhood. 

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT for couples,  Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article:  The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I have helped many clients to overcome their fear and anxiety (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.