Anxiety vs. fear are two distinct concepts, though the line between the two can often be unclear. But by understanding the difference between anxiety vs. fear, you can work toward resolving the symptoms of anxiety that you experience and start living a better life by choosing recovery.
What Is the Difference Between Anxiety vs. Fear?
Fear is a natural and adaptive response to danger. Its roots are in the sympathetic nervous system: the portion of the central nervous system largely responsible for the fight or flight response.
Fear serves a purpose. The feeling of fear is meant to spur you into action, push you to protect yourself from danger, and provide a burst of energy in hazardous situations. The instantaneous fear response helps you to respond to danger rapidly and take the action necessary to protect yourself or your loved ones.
Anxiety has similar roots but with a few critical differences. Anxiety is excessive worry or concern about potential dangers in the future rather than a response to an immediate threat. Some degree of anxiety may even be adaptive if it prevents you from entering into situations that could pose a danger.
But anxiety can often run out of control and be triggered even when there is no real danger in sight. When anxiety starts to interfere with your life or becomes excessive and constant, it could lead to the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
Sometimes anxiety develops from living through dangerous or frightening situations. If you were the victim of a robbery, for instance, you may begin to feel anxious anytime you walk down an alleyway at night or begin to avoid such situations entirely.
Stress also overlaps with anxiety, we have another article that looks into the difference between stress and anxiety.
How Does Fear Relate to Trauma?
Similarly, living through a frightening situation can lead to the experience of trauma. In general, trauma is an emotional response to living through incredibly distressing or fear-inducing events. When the symptoms of trauma continue for months or years, it may result in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Events that may lead to trauma include:
- Military combat
- Being the victim of violent crime
- Sexual assault or rape
- Living through a natural disaster
- Death of a close relative or loved one
People who experience trauma can relive their traumatic events over and over again, which can often lead to a physiological fear response.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
The symptoms of anxiety can often present differently for different people, but common symptoms include:
- Excessive worry
- Panic attacks
- Thoughts racing out of control
- Trouble calming down or relaxing
- Sleep difficulties
Anxiety disorders often fall into different categories. Some people may have social anxiety, where the primary source of anxiety is being embarrassed or ostracized in front of others. Other people may deal with panic disorder, where panic attacks are the most common and pervasive symptom.
Thankfully, there are several evidence-based anxiety treatment and anxiety therapy options that can help people learn to manage and relieve their symptoms, and many people will achieve full remission with appropriate care.
What Are the Symptoms of Trauma?
The symptoms of trauma can depend largely on what stage people are at in the trauma process. If you have just experienced a traumatic event, common reactions may be:
- A feeling of shock
These feelings are a completely normal reaction to unprecedented circumstances and aren’t necessarily signs of a mental health disorder. But when people still struggle with traumatic events after months or years, it often leads to the development of PTSD, which may include symptoms such as:
- Nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Exaggerated fear response
- Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatic event
- Sleeping difficulties
- Feeling constantly on edge
- Guilt or shame
- Irritability or sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior
PTSD is an incredibly debilitating disorder that can lead to severe disruption in your everyday life. Seeking evidence-based trauma therapy can help you find relief for your symptoms, learn healthier ways of coping with them, and start you on the path to recovery.
How Do I Know if I Have Trauma?
Trauma is exceptionally common. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that roughly half of all adults in the United States experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes, though most don’t go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Knowing whether you’ve experienced trauma or are currently experiencing post-traumatic stress is a determination made by you and a trained mental health professional. People respond to extreme situations differently, and while one person may experience chronic symptoms of trauma after a traumatic event, others may not notice any change at all.
The symptom of impairment is generally considered to be the benchmark for when it’s time to seek trauma treatment. When your trauma interferes with your ability to live life as you see fit or causes you undue stress or hardship, trauma therapy is an excellent way to learn to move forward in your life.
Traditional Treatment Methods for Anxiety and Trauma
As troubling as the symptoms of anxiety and trauma may be, there are several evidence-based treatment methods that can help you deal with those symptoms. Traditional treatment models generally fall along one of two lines:
Pharmacotherapy is the use of targeted medications that can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety or trauma and can often lead to complete remission of the disorder. It is typically performed under the care of a trained psychiatrist who can help you find the right medication, target the right dose, and minimize any unwanted side effects.
Both anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder stem from an overactive sympathetic nervous system. As such, the medications used to treat these disorders typically provide some level of relaxation for this system.
But while this can provide substantial relief, many people won’t find the recovery they seek from medication alone.
Psychotherapy is the most common front-line approach for treating trauma and anxiety. While psychotherapy has many different styles and techniques, they all involve sitting down to talk with a therapist about your challenges and learning new ways of thinking about your problems, new ways to behave, and how you can make positive changes for the future.
The exact style of therapy depends largely on which disorder you’re dealing with. Some common approaches include:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is used both as anxiety therapy and in the treatment of trauma disorders and focuses on helping people identify problematic thoughts and behaviors, challenging them, and ultimately ingraining more healthy and productive ways of thinking and behaving.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR was developed specifically to treat post-traumatic stress disorder but has been found to be effective at treating many other mental health conditions as well. EMDR uses a technique known as bilateral stimulation, which can aid in processing traumatic memories and helping people find recovery.
Group therapy brings people with a shared challenge together to collaborate on effective solutions for recovery. Group therapy can be incredibly powerful for people dealing with either anxiety or trauma and can provide lasting social support for your recovery as well.
While psychotherapy is a highly effective approach, it can often take months for people to start seeing the benefits of treatment. Thankfully, new and innovative approaches to treating both anxiety and trauma are being offered at Plus by APN.
Cutting-Edge Anxiety and Trauma Treatments at Plus by APN
Despite the success of traditional treatments for treating trauma and anxiety disorders, many people aren’t able to find the relief they are looking for with conventional treatment alone. At Plus by APN, we specialize in offering cutting-edge and innovative treatments that can provide fast and lasting relief, using treatment options such as:
Ketamine-assisted therapy uses the psychedelic medicine ketamine to help people break through barriers in therapy, which can rapidly help resolve anxiety and PTSD symptoms.
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
A Stellate Ganglion Block provides a small dose of local anesthetic to a bundle of nerves known as the stellate ganglion. This can help reduce sympathetic nervous system overactivation, providing relief from many of the most troubling anxiety and PTSD symptoms.
Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Deep TMS uses specialized equipment to provide brief magnetic impulses deep within the brain to targeted regions associated with anxiety and PTSD. In just a few treatments, people can begin to experience significant relief from their symptoms.
All of these treatments take a different approach to aiding healing from anxiety and PTSD. Rather than treating symptoms alone, they target the source of these mental health disorders. They can even be paired with traditional talk therapy or pharmacotherapy approaches for even greater results.
Start Treatment Today
To get started with treatment, reach out to the team at Plus by APN by calling 424.644.6486 or filling out our confidential online contact form. Our team of mental health experts can help you determine which treatment is best for you and start you on the path to recovery that can last a lifetime.
- Liriano, Felix et al. “Ketamine as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder: a review.” Drugs in context vol. 8 212305. 8 Apr. 2019, doi:10.7573/dic.212305
- “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd. Accessed 15 Dec. 2023.