DANGER! DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!
Fear is a foe and a friend. Without fear, who is to tell us not to touch an electric fence? Without fear, who is to drive us go ride that terrifying rollercoaster? The word ‘fear’ causes a linguistic problem (no, not the pasta, that’s linguine), as we often say we fear something (lets use Mr. Dorian Grey here and suppose we fear ageing) in the same way we say we’re anxious about something (like ageing). Indeed, the two can cause similar bodily reactions, but when we’re talking about generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), the two are categorically different. Let’s discuss.
What’s the Big Diff?
To appreciate the differences, we must first look at the similarities between fear and anxiety. An article by Sheryl Ankrom describes it well, in that we shall take the example of walking down a dark alleyway alone at night. Fear would arise if you heard a voice say “I have a gun! Give me your money!”. This is where your fight-or-flight response would kick in (literally or not), and you may experience shortness of breath, increased heart rate and muscle tension.
Let’s rewind a minute. You’re walking down a dark alleyway alone at night, but this time no one is around…or are they? You don’t know. You don’t know your threat yet, or even if there is a threat and apprehension causes shortness of breath, increased heart rate and muscle tension. This is anxiety, not fear. See the similarities? See the difference?
We have all felt anxiety at some point in our life, but not all of us have the ‘anxiety’ basic bitches complain about on social media (this is your intervention). Someone with GAD may feel like the above, all the time. A constant sense of dread with thoughts racing about the possibility of something happen, can end up causing panic attacks and could result in agoraphobia (the fear of leaving your house) for some people.
Phobias are born out of fear, and fear can cause anxiety. I, your resident blogging sweetheart, can attest to this. My biggest phobia is aviophobia – a.k.a the fear of flying. I am absolutely terrified of flying, and every time I have to travel via aeroplane I end up becoming a wreck. I get flush, nauseous, and have heart palpitations, and there is no use trying to console me with ‘Planes are the safest way to travel’ or ‘You’re more likely to have a car crash than a plane crash’, it won’t work. From this phobia, I feel anxious as soon as I start thinking about my impending travelling, even airplanes on TV shows and films can set me off.
…I do not have GAD. I do have social anxiety, but I do not experience apprehension about unknown dangers around me. Notice how I described it as ‘feeling anxious’ and not ‘Omg my anxiety can’t deal’, because I’m a good person Janet, I use my words appropriately.
If you are struggling with your anxiety, or just want someone to talk to, feel free to visit my Help page where you will find websites and phone numbers for organisations that can support you.
Featured Image Credit 📷: Paul Garaizar