What's The Difference Between Fear And Anxiety?

There seems to be no shortage of emotional challenges such as fear and anxiety. While they both may seem very similar, they are not the same emotion, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Fear is one of the six basic human emotions, along with sadness, happiness, anger, surprise, and disgust, per UWA Online. Fear is a signal of danger or a threat you're confronted with in your environment (via NAMI). While fear can accompany anxiety, anxiety is a response to an emotional state, rather than a response to the environment. It can translate into dread or nervousness regardless of whether you are in a dangerous situation or not, explains MedlinePlus.

Despite anxiety and fear feeling so similar, they do have subtle and important differences. There are many things you can do to relieve both fear and anxiety, but it's likely you'd want to identify which one you're experiencing in order to address the root cause.

What they feel like and how to treat them

Fear and anxiety can provoke similar physical responses. VeryWellMind reports that anxiety often produces symptoms such as increased heart rate, chest pain, chills, dizziness, excessive sweating, headaches, muscle aches or tension, ringing in the ears, and trembling, among others. This can occur if you simply imagine the possibility of something bad happening. Fear on the other hand can produce much of the same responses, including faster heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and digestive discomfort (per WebMD). But the distinction is that fear is defined as a response to an environmental threat, even if the threat is logically a harmless one (i.e. public speaking).

While both these mental states can cause a great deal of distress, rest assured you can get help and take steps to alleviate them. Finding a doctor or mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders can be a great first step, according to VeryWellMind. Your provider may be able to prescribe certain medications, recommend lifestyle changes, or refer you to a therapist (via Healthline).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.