What is the difference between Fear and Anxiety: Part 3

What is the difference between fear and anxiety? As I described over the last two weeks, in my counselling practice in Bishops Stortford I’m often approached by people seeking assistance who use these words together as a single phrase: “Fear and Anxiety”. In those articles, I worked to separate the two words and more clearly define their meanings as I see them. To better understand Fear, I would suggest clicking here and to better understand how that differs from Anxiety, I would strongly suggest clicking here. Understanding the difference between the two will put what you read below into context, and it will likely be more valuable to you as a result. So, without further ado, let me talk a bit about my approach to assisting people suffering from either Fear, Anxiety or both in my Bishops Stortford counselling practice.

Whenever a new individual comes to see me and describes Fear and/or Anxiety as their presenting problem, we first spend as much time as is required for that person to explain what it is that is happening in their lives that has brought these two very painful feelings about. In most cases, something has happened that has shaken the confidence of that individual, or a recent major change has occurred in their lives. Perhaps they’ve lost the thread of their thought in the middle of a business meeting/presentation (something they’ve done a million times before), and it has rattled them. Perhaps something new is on the horizon they’ve never done before but is just that little bit further away from their comfort zone than they believe can handle. Maybe a significant change has recently happened in their lives (a divorce, a child leaving for university, or a house move) that has taken away some important thing they’ve been using to bolster their confidence.

Whatever the cause, the first thing that is important to do in counselling is to give it the voice it deserves. To hear it, to hold it, and to see it as real and true. Almost everybody who comes to me with a fear/anxiety issue downplays it. They tell me their feelings are silly, they tell me that they should be easily able to get over it, they tell me that there are other people in the world with “real” problems and they feel guilty for wasting my time. I know that these statements come from a fear of being ridiculed. More often than not by the time a person comes to me for assistance, some other person has made statements to them about pulling their socks up, getting on with it or to stop being a such a wimp. I will make no such statement to anybody, regardless of the concern or its cause.

Once we understand what the concerns are and what it is that the individual concerned believes is causing them, we spend a bit of time separating out the two feelings (Fear and Anxiety) as they apply to that situation. We take honest stock of anything that can be considered dangerous, and place those things clearly on a timeline from that day so we can ascertain how imminent that danger is. Having done this, we then take honest stock of any elements of the situation that can be changed, and any elements that can be prepared for. For those things that can be changed, we look at what those changes might be, and how they can be made. For those things that can be prepared for, we look at what preparation is needed, and how to ensure it happens. So, for example, if a person is experiencing fear and anxiety over an upcoming event where they will have to speak in front of people, we look at how to best get ready for that. What steps can be taken to ensure that if a fear reaction does come about, those symptoms can be handled in the same way they might if driving around Hanger Lane Gyratory System (see here for elaboration on this). If there is nothing that can be changed (we can’t bring a child back from their planned 18 month trip around Australia for example), we work to find other ways of working through any other emotional reactions that are present.

I will then work with, and teach each person who suffers from these issues a number of specific, easily learnable techniques for reducing anxiety (ahead of the event), reducing fear (just before or during the event), and for managing any fear symptoms that might occur.

It is not possible in a blog such as this to go into much more detail than this, as each person’s needs are specific to them. If you are suffering from Fear and/or Anxiety, and would like more information about how I might be able to assist you in managing these very painful emotions, please contact me on 01279 834467 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs before setting up any sort of appointment.