What is the difference between anxiety and fear?

Anxiety is based on fear but it is not the same as fear. For example, imagine that as you read this post, a scary person came into the room and threatened you with a gun. You would instantly be afraid and react to this “fear stimulus”. Your body is wired with the sympathetic nervous system “flight or fight” response. This means that you are either going to fight back, or want to run away, or freeze until you can figure out what to do.

Taking this same example, anxiety would be if you spent time wondering “What if the bad guy comes back again?” Anxiety means that you are feeling the flight or fight response when there is no fear stimulus in your present environment.

Of course, there are very realistic reasons why we worry about bad things happening. This is usually based reasons such as past experiences, or bad news that we learn about from the media, or learned behaviors from other people. Other times, we imagine things to be much worse than what they really are….and we just get swept away with bad thoughts.

Sometimes people have panic attacks, or just pervasive feelings of anxiety where it feels like “everything” is the cause of anxiety.

Other times, people have phobias or extreme fear reactions which can become crippling and keep them from being able to function and enjoy life.

There are definitely ways to learn how to reduce anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. Anxiety is treatable!

If you have been held captive by anxiety in your life, then please seek help. You can get better.

Is Medication Enough? 

Medication can help take the edge off of the physical reactions to anxiety but therapy is required to help a person change his thoughts and behaviors in order to reduce or eliminate anxiety.

Anti-anxiety medication can help you feel better so that you can start interacting with the therapy process. The more you change your thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors about the anxiety-producing circumstances, the better your ability to get rid of anxiety.

Hypnotherapy can help you go from just talking about how you would like to feel and think differently, to actually feeling and experiencing it. It lets you re-experience the fear producing stimulus from a calm state, so that you can have a different physical and cognitive response. It is a very empowering process! 

by Diana Zilly, MS, MA, LCPC. Diana is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and Educator, and former Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Joliet Junior College.

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