Are you afraid of something?
Is it merely fear or the fact that you are anxious about something without an apparent reason? How do you determine whether there is a real cause for fear? There is a subtle difference between the two things; to be in fear and just being anxious.
Fear is usually a state of mind when it perceives intimidation from an external source or object. You are walking down a dark alley and suddenly you see two heads pop out of the dark from the other end of the alley. You fear something is going to happen. You turn back to exit the alley and see another head blocking your way. This is a cause for intimidation. Naturally you fear that you are going to get mugged or even harmed bodily. This is an external stimuli and your body will prepare to fight against it.
Fear is a natural phenomenon and one that prepares the human body to react and avert the situation by pumping in more adrenaline into the blood stream. It allows you to run faster, fight harder and even think quicker. Fear is a definite response against particular stimuli which is not the case with anxiety.
Anxiety deals with anything and everything. There are often no rational stimuli and the cause of anxiety may come from a generalized thought or even perceived notion. A person may simply be anxious of the fact that he has to leave home and go to the market to pick up some groceries. In the above example the person in the dark alley is alerted when he sees the unknown people. The external stimuli i.e.; the presence of the unknown individuals who are probably muggers is perceived by the mind as a definite threat. On the contrary anxiety is when a person is always afraid to go out in dark alleys, even when there are no threats. Anxiety can thus be identified when a person has a general fear of something or everything around itself when there is no definite threat or stimuli.
Fear, can be further sub divided into rational fear and irrational fear. Rational thoughts of an individual to assess and size up a situation may lead to fear. You have prepared for your math examination but when you open the question paper you find questions that are mostly from the areas that you have not touched. Instantly you have a cold sweat and a gripping fear that consumes you. This fear comes from the thought of failure and what it means to you professionally and even socially. If this is an examination that could have meant a possible job had you passed out then this is a rational fear.
On the other hand if you start to have cold sweats the night before the examination, even if you have prepared well, then this is anxiety. There are no rational stimuli. You have prepared well leaving nothing out and that means you should be okay. The thought may spark from the idea what if questions come from areas which you have not prepared? The fact is you have covered the entire syllabus so that is impossible and yet you spend a sleepless night.
You may also think if you are unable to answer the questions properly, when there is no reason to believe so. What if you run out of time? What if? What if? The irrational thoughts that start a chain reaction are what are know as anxiety. In the absence of stimuli it is hard to address to difficult to control.
Anxiety has a serious repercussion on your life, both social and personal. While the real causes of anxiety differ from person to person and have no clear pattern. However the results are usually catastrophic for the person who is affected. Say a brilliant student who has an anxiety of stepping out of home and or sitting in wide open spaces can be scared to death sitting at an examination hall. He can end up losing a year, losing out on possible jobs, a career and a bright life.
People are known to lose their jobs, their partners and even their best friends because they have been anxious about things that are not real.