8/15/08

The distinction between anxiety and fear.

One of several versions of the painting Image via Wikipedia
To most of us there is no difference between anxiety and fear. However, if we are to grow personally and professionally, we will have to understand the difference between them in order to overcome them.

Here is an excerpt from an interview given by Dr. David H.Barlow, who is one of the leading experts on emotional disorders. He has written over 500 articles and over 60 books on the subject of emotional disorders and clinical research methodology.

Dr. Barlow: Fear is a present-orientated emotion, typically in reaction to some sudden threat to one’s integrity. It’s best recognized by the fight-or flight response, or a strong urge to engage in the emotion-driven behavior of escape. It’s an immediate response, and it’s best characterized by the experience that “something terrible is happening to me right now, and I need to take some immediate action to get out of here.”

Anxiety, on the other hand, is focused on something that might happen in the future that one needs to be worried about. It’s a focus on a potential future threat. An individual is motivated by the emotion to get ready for the potential threat, and the typical action tendencies or emotion driven behaviors are to become more vigilant, size up the threat, and worry about the various outcomes. It’s not happening right now; it’s something that’s going to happen soon, anywhere from the next several minutes to the next several months. And the purpose of that emotion is readiness, to get people ready to deal effectively with an upcoming threat.


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