What is Anxiety

Anxiety is the emotion people may experience when they feel that something unpleasant may occur in the future. Anxiety is entirely natural, and most people experience anxiety at some point of their lives when they face with circumstances that are hard or threatening such as preparing for an interview, dating someone for the first time, or giving birth. Anxiety, on the other hand, has positive functions of warning us of potentially harmful things we should worry about. In addition, anxiety helps us to assess potential threats and react to them in a proper way by quickening our reflexes or concentrating better.

Anxiety as a concept is frequently used to contain a wide range of experiences and is associated with emotions such as fear and worry. Anxiety leads to physical and mental reactions due to expectation of potential risk or threat, while fear is the emotional reaction to actual or perceived approaching threat. Though experience of anxiety and experience of fear have similarities, they are different. The key difference is that anxiety happens in the absence of actual danger. In other words, people may suppose that they are in danger although they are not. For example, you may feel anxious while you are walking down a dark side street because you feel some possible danger, though there is not any real danger. Believing that you are in danger may cause the experience of anxiety. Consequently, the experience of anxiety and fear are essentially the same except for there might not be any real danger in the case of anxiety, but you think there is.

Types of Anxiety

There are three main types of anxiety: Generalized anxiety, Phobias and Panic.
Generalized anxiety refers to excessive amount of anxiety or worry in several areas of life, such as responsibilities regarding work, well-being, economy, and other concerns such as doing assignments or housework.

Phobias are intensive fearful reactions to an actual specific situation or an object. For instance, fear of speaking in front of a group of people and fear of snake could be accepted as phobias.
Panic is an intense anxious reaction to a specific situation such as potential occurrence of earthquake leading to a panic attack.

How does Anxiety develop?

Anxiety pushes people to avoid things that worry or scare them. When anxious people avoid these things, they experience an instant but short feeling of relief. However, the objects become scarier when they meet them again. This creates a detrimental cycle of avoidance, and worsening anxiety.

What’s the difference between anxiety and stress?

Stress and anxiety are frequently used interchangeably due their similarities. Although the physical signs of anxiety and stress may be similar, the reason of stress and anxiety are generally different. Stress mainly focuses on outside pressures such as excessive workload or an exam that people have difficulty in managing. People normally know what they are stressed about when they are stressed, and the symptoms usually fade away following the stressful situation.

Anxiety, conversely, isn’t always as easy to know. Anxiety focuses on worries or fears about things that could potentially frighten or threaten people. Overall, the feelings of stress and anxiety are completely natural and humane reactions, but they can have negative effects on people’s well being if they go on for a long time.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (Fifth Edition) American Psychiatric Publishing.
  2. Craske, M., Rauch, S., Ursano, R., Prenoveau, J., Pine, D. and Zinbarg, R. (2009) What Is An Anxiety Disorder? Depression & Anxiety, 26, 1066–85.
  3. Barlow, D. H. (2004). Anxiety and its disorders: The nature and treatment of anxiety and panic. Guilford press.
  4. Brown, T. A., & Barlow, D. H. (2014). Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5 (ADIS-5L).: Lifetime Version. Client Interview Schedule. Oxford University Press.
  5. McNaughton, N. (1996). What is anxiety and how should we treat it?’. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 25(1), 51-61.
  6. Differences between Stress and Anxiety. [26th of July, 2020] https://www.utoledo.edu/studentaffairs/counseling/anxietytoolbox/diffstressandanxiety.html
  7. Stress vs. Anxiety. [26th of July, 2020] https://www.jmu.edu/news/counselingctr/2012/12/12-1-12-news-stress-vs-anxiety.shtml

Bahadir Bozoglan, PhD

I have a PhD degree on Psychological Counseling and Guidance, and have worked for several universities as a faculty member for years. Now, I work as a full time freelance senior academic researcher, reviewer, psychotherapist, supervisor and statistic expert.

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