Anxiety And Fear: What’s The Difference?

Anxiety and fear are words often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Fear is one of the seven core emotions on the Change Triangle, the practical tool I use to teach emotion education. The biological and evolutionary purpose of core emotions, like fear, is to help us survive. Fear specifically makes us flee from danger.

Anxiety, an inhibitory emotion on the Change Triangle, results from avoiding core emotions and needs. More specifically, anxiety results from the physical effort to push down emotions. If we know we are not in physical danger in a moment, yet we are experiencing something akin to fear, we can assume we are experiencing anxiety.

In general, the amount of anxiety we experience is linked to our early experiences with emotions. For example, if a child “learns” by experience that their sadness leads to mother’s withdrawal or impatience, the child will learn to suppress sadness. In result, the child may feel anxiety instead of sadness.

It’s important to understand the difference between fear and anxiety because the way we work through these two emotions is different.

Read the article from NAMI – National Alliance of Mental Illness here.