I hear the word anxiety being lumped together with the word fear. Like, all-the-time.
On the surface this makes a lot of sense… the idea that being anxious = being afraid or fearful of something.
The problem for many people suffering with chronic anxiety is not the fact that they feel anxious and afraid: it’s the fact that they feel anxious and afraid when there is nothing to be afraid of.
That feeling can be overwhelming + all consuming, and since there is nothing to actually be afraid of… it’s also a bit trickier to turn off.
So when a well intending friend says to a person with anxiety, “you know the best way to get over your anxiety is by facing your fear” it may not be a viable option.
Because, if anxiety is present without an object of fear… there is nothing to face except the overwhelming + all consuming anxiousness that shows up without any kind of framework to define it.
You can look at it this way…
When you know you’re going to be doing something that frightens you, like speaking in public for example, there’s a natural tendency to feel a rise in fear and anxiety. This situation provides a framework – an understanding as to why you’re feeling fearful and anxious. So, when you show up at your speaking gig + deliver your speech, the anxious feelings will subside because you have faced your fear and triumphed.
But when you feel anxious and you don’t know why… it becomes anxiety in the absence of fear.
Anxiety of this variety can be constant and debilitating + it’s totally exhausting.
It has more do do with a misfire in your nervous system, the unwarranted activation of the fight or flight response, than it does with being afraid or fearful of something specific.
So, if you know someone who suffers with anxiety, remember it’s not always about fear.