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Differences Between Fear and Anxiety

  • Date Submitted: 07/02/2011 01:53 PM
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1.(SID# 32250) Describe the differences and similarities between fear and anxiety.

The average layperson might use the terms fear and anxiety interchangeably. To behavioral scientists, however, fear and anxiety are two distinct emotional conditions and therefore require different forms of treatment.
Fear is defined as an intense and unpleasant emotional state aroused by anticipation or awareness of a specific threat. Anxiety is a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension, a diffuse feeling of uneasiness accompanied by a generalized sense of impending disaster. It is a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. (Kaplan and Sadock)
Fear is aroused in the presence of real or perceived danger. A stark contrast to anxiety, which needs no such stimulus and is often aroused without any real threat or danger. A fearful person therefore could easily point out or explain the object of his or her fear but the anxious person often cannot.
This important distinction between these two affective states could be illustrated by the following scenario: Two hikers get lost along a heavily wooded trail. They take separate paths to look for help. As dusk approaches one hiker begins to breathe rapidly. His heart rate increases, and he breaks into a sweat as thoughts of what could happen to him should he not be found, flood his mind. Meanwhile, his partner pauses to sit on a log as he calmly devises a survival plan. Suddenly, he hears what sounds like a loud growl off to his left. His heart pounds in his chest, his breath caches in his throat and he breaks into a cold sweat as he jerks around to see a large angry looking bear lumbering down the path towards him.
The physiological responses are similar in both cases. However, the first hiker’s response is prompted by an imagined, generalized, undefined sense of impending disaster. The second hiker is responding to a real and immediate threat.  
Another factor which distinguishes fear from anxiety is the behaviors which...

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