Fear and anxiety are closely related. Where fear is a response to a perceived threat right now and here, anxiety is more future-oriented. The anxiety is typically about an expected threat that could potentially happen. Both fear and anxiety are natural emotions that arise when we experience a threat or danger. The feeling of anxiety puts the body on high alert. The heart beats faster, we sweat, shake, our breathing becomes faster and we tense up. Our body is getting ready for us to quickly flee or fight, and survive the dangerous situation.
Fear and anxiety have an important function for us, and have helped us survive through time. Unfortunately, it can also develop into a disorder. This can be when the anxiety reaction comes unexpectedly and without an obvious reason, or when the anxiety stops us from doing what we want or what is necessary in our everyday life – for example, meeting our friends, participating in meetings or going grocery shopping.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders. A study in Europe showed that approximately 12% of the population suffers from anxiety during their lifetime. In Denmark, this corresponds to approximately 400,000 Danes. Women are diagnosed more often with an anxiety disorder than men.
Types of anxiety
There are various types of anxiety disorders. What differentiates them from each other, is that they all have a different focus. This means that different things or situations trigger the anxiety. If the anxiety is about a specific animal such as spiders, it will most likely be a specific phobia. Another very normal example of a specific phobia could be fear of heights. However if the anxiety is more general, and concerns many different things, themes, people, and situations, it is most likely generalized anxiety.
How is anxiety expressed?
Common things that most people with anxiety experience is that they:
- worry a lot
- are very aware of feelings and sensations inside themselves and among the people around them
- try to avoid their fears, plan things out in detail, or trying to soothe the anxiety in other ways, e.g. with alcohol
In addition, most people with anxiety also feel convinced that:
- they can not control their worries
- the worries are necessary to get a handle on their everyday life