Anxiety vs. Fear! How to Identify and Differentiate between the two?

A lot of people mix the terms anxiety and fear quite often. Although a person usually feels them together, they are not the same word. It’s a common misconception that these words are synonymous with each other.

The symptoms of fear and anxiety are kind of similar to each other. What makes them different from each other is where this feeling came from. To simplify it, a person feels fear when they understand what’s threatening them, while anxiety occurs when a person doesn’t have any clue what the threat is and when it will happen.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is how the body reacts to the unknown threat that a person is feeling. People feel anxious because of the possible threats that run in the back of their minds. For example, if a person is walking alone in a dark alley, they would feel uneasy and anxious because they don’t know the harm that could happen to them.

Anxiety comes from the mind’s interpretation of the possible dangers that might occur in that particular situation. In other words, it pushes back down the emotions that a person feels, such as fear.

Anxiety affects all the other emotions a person has. To relieve someone’s anxiety, they have to feel calm and grounded. It might be hard, but it’s one of the first steps to process the emotions that they feel. Understanding one’s emotions can help them calm down from their anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Trouble Sleeping or Insomnia
  • Nervous or restless feeling
  • Chest pain
  • Cold chills or hot flushes
  • Numbness
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Ringing in ears
  • Muscle pain

What Is Fear?

Fear is the body and mind’s natural response to a known threat. This means that the information that the five senses have delivered is understood and translated clearly by the person’s mind. For example, a person walks in a dark alley, and they see a masked stranger holding a knife, they would know the danger immediately.

Fear comes from the person’s understanding of the situation. This feeling would determine how a person would act in a situation. These three possible responses are fight, flight, or freeze. Once the fear kicks in, the person in danger might fight the threat, run away from the danger, or stay still because they do not know what to do.

Unlike anxiety, the feeling of fear will only go away once a person doesn’t feel the presence of the threat anymore. Just like any of the core emotions, fear cannot be controlled as it is the automatic response of the body, and it will go away once the cause is no longer there.

Symptoms of Fear

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Cold chills
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Upset stomach


Fear and anxiety almost have similar symptoms, which is why people think they’re the same thing. The difference between anxiety and fear is how the brain interprets a situation. Nevertheless, mental health is just as important as physical health. Understanding emotions is part of taking care of one’s well-being.

As a part of taking care of one’s mental health, it’s good to ask for help from a professional therapist. For affordable therapy in NYC, trust Therapy24x7. Therapy24x7 provides psychotherapy and life-coaching services, both online and in-office. Reach out today for more information!

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