We see many clients with anxiety - not surprising when you realise that around 14% of Aussies will experience an anxiety disorder each year. We're often asked: “What’s the difference between anxiety, worry and fear?”,“When is anxiety a disorder and not just a normal part of life?”, “What causes anxiety?” and “What’s the best treatment” We’ll answer each of these briefly and hope you can come away able to help us spread more accurate and helpful info about anxiety in our community.
Firstly, there are different types of anxiety disorders, the main ones being:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder), Separation Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Selective Mutism and Specific Phobias. Note: OCD and PTSD also involve anxiety but they are not considered anxiety disorders as such.
“What’s the difference between anxiety, worry and fear?”
In most situations, those words are used interchangeably but in mental health land, we differentiate them in terms of intensity and focus.
Fear is what we all experience when faced with an actual threat. If you’re walking through the bush and a snake slithers across your path you might experience a moment of fear. Until you realise it’s just going about it’s business and not interested in you at all!
Anxiety is ongoing hypervigilance that has you scared about the possibility of encountering a snake even before you go for a walk. In fact, you probably wouldn’t go for a walk. Just in case. And if you did, you might be freaked out by rustling noises in the bush and the sight of long sticks.
Worry is like Anxiety Lite. It’s persistent and it makes you more vigilant, but it doesn’t cause as much distress or avoidance. You might be a bit concerned about going for a walk in case you come across a snake, but you go anyway. And you can enjoy it without jumping each time you hear rustling.