People experience feelings like fear and anxiety on a regular basis so it can be difficult to distinguish them from each other. Although both fear and anxiety have a lot in common, they also have some clear differences.
Anxiety and fear are the brain’s natural responses to certain stressful situations. In fact, the fight-or-flight response affects not only your brain but also all other parts of your body, as well. While both anxiety and fear are associated with the fight-or-flight response, these feelings are usually caused by different factors.
Usually, fear is a response to something perceived as an immediate danger. This is a natural emotion that was extremely helpful for our ancestors and is still necessary. Fear may cause a vast variety of mental and physical symptoms, including trembling, sweating, and a racing heartbeat. All these symptoms are the physical manifestations of the fight-or-flight response, which increases the level of stress hormones, including adrenaline.
All these symptoms make fear feel quite similar to anxiety. Healthy fear, however, goes away as soon as the source of danger is no longer present. As a result, fear usually doesn’t last for too long. Persistent and intense fear, however, may signal mental health problems.
While anxiety may also be rooted in external factors, most often, it’s caused by internal factors, such as a person’s thoughts and worries. While fear is a response to definite threats, anxiety may be related to certain feelings. Quite often, people experience anxiety when they are not sure about future events or expect something to happen.
Given that anxiety usually is a response to the anticipation of events or feelings that haven’t happened yet, it’s less dependent on actual external threats. As a result, anxiety is more likely to become chronic, and its symptoms may worsen with time. When anxiety doesn’t go away, it turns into an anxiety disorder. Many people with this disorder have trouble relaxing and feel nervous for no obvious reason.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, various phobias, etc. All of these disorders are different but they also share some common symptoms, such as rumination about possible threats and nervousness.
How to treat anxiety
No matter what kind of anxiety you’re dealing with, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues so therapists are perfectly familiar with it and they know how to help. Talk therapy is very effective when it comes to treating anxiety because, unlike medications, it addresses the root causes of the problem.
Licensed anxiety disorder specialists can help you understand what causes your worries and identify unhelpful thoughts that fuel the symptoms of anxiety. A therapist can also suggest effective coping practices that can help you learn to calm down and look at things from a new perspective. Therapy can also help you improve your problem-solving skills.
As we’ve mentioned above, there are different anxiety disorders so they require different kinds of treatment. For instance, if you experience anxiety attacks, the therapist may suggest a different treatment than when treating social anxiety. There are various therapy modalities that therapists may choose depending on a particular client’s symptoms. Besides, the length of therapy depends on the severity of the symptoms.
According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of people with anxiety notice significant improvements after 8 to 10 sessions with a therapist. The length of therapy also depends on the therapy modality. Some types of therapy are considered short-term, while others take more time. The reason is that therapy may focus on a specific problem or aim to improve one’s emotional well-being, in general.
Types of therapy for anxiety
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of therapy. All these therapeutic modalities are often called talk therapy because, despite many differences, all of them involve conversations between a therapist and a client.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapeutic modality is most common because it can be used in various situations. It has proven to be effective when treating anxiety, depression, stress, self-esteem problems, and many other mental health issues. The main idea behind CBT is that unwanted emotions and behaviors are rooted in unhelpful thoughts so the ultimate goal of therapy is to help a client identify, challenge, and change these thoughts.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). This modality stems from and is quite similar to CBT. DBT, however, is used when a client experiences particularly intense emotions. While CBT aims to change negative thinking patterns, DBT may seek a balance between change and acceptance.
- Psychodynamic therapy. This type of therapy stems from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory so it can be considered the oldest type of talk therapy. Psychodynamic therapy, however, evolved significantly compared to traditional psychoanalysis. Its effectiveness has been proven by researchers, and it doesn’t take as much time as psychoanalysis. However, psychodynamic therapy usually takes more time than CBT because it may address multiple issues at once instead of targeting a single problem.
- Interpersonal therapy. Interpersonal therapy is usually used when dealing with emotional problems that have to do with communication, relationships, and social situations. When it comes to anxiety, interpersonal therapy can be used when treating social anxiety. The goal of therapy is to help a client improve their social skills and learn to deal with various social situations.
How to start anxiety therapy
Traditionally, therapy has required clients to commute to a therapist’s office, which can be a problem for busy people with tight work schedules. However, the situation has changed thanks to the internet and online therapy platforms like Calmerry. There’s no need to leave the comfort of your home because you can get the necessary help and support from virtually anywhere.
To get started, you just have to answer a few questions about your symptoms, and Calmerry will match you with a licensed therapist who is familiar with your problem within an hour. You’re one step away from a happier and more enjoyable life.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.