Is Anxiety & Fear The Same?
Fear and anxiety are often mistaken or understood as the same thing. However, while symptoms can overlap, a person’s experience of these emotions differs based on context. Fear is known to be an emotional response to a known or perceived threat. The focus of the response varies depending on whether the fear is imagined or real. When faced with a fear, we experience a physical response in the body which is known as anxiety.
Fear relates to a known or understood threat, whereas anxiety follows from an unknown or poorly defined threat. Often we understand where our fears come from, but have no awareness of what causes our anxiety. It’s just there in our body and we have to live with it. Fear and anxiety both produce similar responses to threats. But researchers in the field believe that there are important differences between anxiety and fear. One of these is how we react to various stressors in our environment. The subtle differences between the two can give you a better understanding of your symptoms and how to treat the issue.
Conquering Your Fears
There are many resources and approaches out there to fear, in the psychotherapeutic and psychiatric fields, which speak of ‘imagining, conquering, waging war and fighting your fears’. Waging war on your fears is one approach, and sometimes that might be appropriate, since facing our fears is certainly sometimes necessary. But there are many other, kinder approaches to dealing with and managing chronic anxiety.
When we go ahead and try to overcome our fears, we are taking a very firm and strong approach with ourselves. For some people, this might be needed, but for most people, there is a tendency to override our feeling and experience. When we override ourselves and go against what our fear tells us to do, we run a risk. Instead of listening to ourselves at a deeper level, we are overriding ourselves. The question always is what are we overriding? Is it a useful thing to step over our fears, or do we need to deeply listen first?
Many fears are also grounded in the unknown. We fear what might happen and make it mean something if it potentially happened. Some fears are totally justified, but out of proportion. For example some phobias might appear completely irrational and These are the fears that require us to delve into the past to elucidate the moment in time or moments in time when the seed was sown. We can work with these energetically to release the deeply held pattern that continues to bring the fear. These approaches hold more weight as they actually deal with the issue at heart rather than try to overcome it, as though it doesn’t hold any meaning or is not a wounded part of our consciousness.
Signs of Anxiety & Panic
Panic attacks are experiences that are associated with specific neurobiological and cognitive features like a racing heart, a shortness of breath, a fear of dying or losing control. These aspects have both consensual and non-consensual aspects to them.
By consensual aspects, we mean those that can be perceived by the human senses, measured or tested and collectively agreed upon. For example, the heart rate of a person with a racing heart, the gasping for air of a person who is experiencing shortness of breath. These are the tangible, physical dimensions of the body; i.e the body as an object located in space and time.
The non-consensual aspects of the neurobiological and cognitive features of panic cannot be directly measured or collectively consented to as real. For example, a person’s experience of the sensation of a rapid heart rate as a beating drum, a person’s experience of the sensation of tightness in the chest as a sense of being frozen, a person’s experience of the sensation of fear as a sense of being threatened by his soul that wants to kill him, etc.
These non-consensual aspects of the features of panic cannot be easily located in space and time. They are more dreamlike and exist as fantasies, subjective feelings, dreams and essence. This realm of subliminal, subtle or flash-like awareness isn’t a realm that we can enter into through the mental processes. It exists beyond that.
However, the important thing here is that these non-consensual aspects of the features of panic, like the heart that is experienced as a drum, when explored, reveal entry points into another world of experience, that is very different from the panic and frozen fear. This world often is there to give us a lot of love and power, if we allow ourselves to go there. It can reveal meaning and insights to us that we desperately need to ‘pick up’ or ‘get’.
So when we witness, observe, value, appreciate and explore the multiple dimensions of a our experience of anxiety, panic or fear, we come to a different understanding. Each dimension holds something important for us.
We need both the consensual and the non-consensual aspects of our experience without getting fixed on one being right. All approaches develop different ways of addressing different dimensions of experience.
For example, biomedical approaches researching the neurobiology of panic, attempt to develop anti-panic drugs, and cognitive behavioural approaches focus on controlling or eliminating symptoms. These two approaches offer ways to address the consensus reality, such as the need to regain a sense of control of life, the need to gain some distance from the experience etc.
The uniqueness in taking a multi-reality approach is that we are relating to and addressing all dimensions of a person’s experience. We are redefining reality – as multidimensional.
How Anxiety & Panic Affect The Body
Fear and anxiety produce stress hormones. These have a debilitating impact on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body. It also affects the brain.
Muscle tension, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath mark the most significant physiological symptoms associated with a response to danger. These bodily responses arise because of old survival programmes stored in the old limbic and reptilian brains. Without this stress response, our mind would not receive the alerting danger signal and our bodies would be unable to prepare to flee or stay and battle when faced with danger. But most of these programmes are outdated and unnecessary.
Changing those programmes can release you from the old fear and resulting anxiety. There are many new tools that address this programming on a more energetic level, such as cognitive restructuring, behavioural techniques, role playing difficult situations, mindfulness and being more present in your body, staying close to the uncomfortable reactions rather than being led by them.
Anxiety is often accompanied by many uncomfortable somatic sensations. Some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- muscle pain and tension in the body
- clenched muscles
- fatigue, sleep disturbances and insomnia
- tightness and tension throughout the body
- chest tightness, pain and tingling
- ringing or pulsing in ears
- excessive sweating
- shaking and trembling
- cold chills or hot flushes
- accelerated heart rate
- numbness or tingling
- phobias, OCDs, ADHD, panic attacks, depersonalisation and derealisation
- butterflies, upset stomach, diarrhea or nausea
- short, shallow and tight breath
- feeling like you are going insane
- dizziness or feeling faint
Help For Fear & Anxiety
Join our Overcome Your Fear, Panic & Anxiety Retreat to fully understand and learn how to approach your issue from all levels of your experience.