Fear and anxiety are two negative emotions that every human experiences in life. A lot of different things, ranging from tasks to complete to losing a loved one, can bring fear and anxiety into our daily life.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the U.S., or 18.1% of the population every year. However, despite how common they are, only 36.9% of those struggling with anxiety receive proper treatment. This leaves too many people out in the dark without knowing how to overcome anxiety and fear.
There are a variety of treatments possible when it comes to overcoming fear and anxiety, from self-help options and medication to the many forms of psychotherapy, including online counseling. The important part is to start doing something because fear and anxiety don’t always go away on their own and may get worse over time.
If you are unsure how to overcome fear and anxiety and want to know more about your options, you’ve come to the right place.
What’s the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?
Anxiety and fear are similar and coincide often enough that telling them apart isn’t always easy. The main difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is a reaction to something immediate, while anxiety is a reaction to a future possibility. In other words, fear is focused more on the present, while anxiety is focused more on the future.
For example, if you happen to witness violence, the act itself would induce fear in you. But if you are afraid and worried about an upcoming deadline, what you’re experiencing is anxiety.
Anxiety has the potential to be more long-lasting than fear. You may be anxious about a deadline, but you may continue to be anxious after it because you may expect certain negative outcomes. Fear, on the other hand, tends to happen in shorter bursts, as the present is always changing.
However, it is also possible to be afraid of your anxiety and anxious about your fear – creating a cycle of negative emotions that is tough to break and damages your mental health while it remains ongoing.
Why Am I Afraid and Anxious?
People experience fear and anxiety for a variety of different reasons. At their core, they are both part of our reaction to threats and dangers and are related to our fight or flight (or freeze) response. They are good for survival in small doses, but these days, they often occur too frequently for our own good.
You may feel afraid and anxious as a result of things happening in the present, such as starting a new job, moving to a new place, or experiencing conflict in your relationship. Anxiety and fear can also be related to your past, such as childhood traumas, separation anxiety, or deeply-rooted beliefs.
Regardless of which reason is the one you are dealing with, overcoming fear and anxiety will require taking action on your part.
How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety With Self-Help
Fear or anxiety are not emotions you need to continue living with forever. There are many ways to manage and overcome them and many things you can do to start taking care of your mental health. Let’s go over a few self-help options.
Meditation is a great course of action for overcoming fear and anxiety. While it takes some practice to do it properly, regular practice of mindfulness meditation can maintain a calmer mind, cope with stressors more effectively, and make sure you don’t get emotionally overwhelmed.
Importantly, meditation doesn’t really require you to adopt any spiritual beliefs to work, and there are many meditation guides and tutorials out there that you can try right now and see how it helps first-hand.
Since fear and anxiety are physical processes, medication is a proven way to alleviate them and relax more easily. Depending on where you live, that may require reaching out to a psychiatrist who can consult you on the matter and prescribe the medication. While taking medications for psychological issues is often stigmatized, there is absolutely no shame in opting to get help this way. It is just as valid as needing medication for allergies and says nothing about who you are as a person.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach in which a variety of different exercises are used to help you understand your own patterns of thought and behavior and change them into healthier, more adaptive ones. While the involvement of a therapist in this process is vital, the exercises themselves are worth doing even without one. CBT exercises help get you into an analytical mindset better-equipped to deal with and overcome fear and anxiety.
However, if you feel like treating the symptoms instead of the problem and doing things by yourself isn’t for you, therapy in its many forms is the next thing to consider.
How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety With Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a collaborative process in which you and your therapist work together to identify the underlying sources of your fear and anxiety and provide you with skills and techniques for managing and overcoming them. The process itself can vary depending on the therapeutic approach of your therapist, which itself would depend on what they believe would be the best for you and your personal circumstances. Here are some of the approaches that are known to effectively treat fear and anxiety.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
IPT focuses on your interpersonal relationships responsible for causing and intensifying your fear and anxiety and effectively tackling them. Generally speaking, this involves talking about your issues in a safe and accepting environment and receiving feedback for them. Role-playing, clarification, and communication analysis are common techniques used in IPT, meant to help you deconstruct situations and dig deep into them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This therapeutic approach focuses on identifying maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that facilitate fear and anxiety and changing them into adaptive ones that facilitate mental health and a calmer state of mind. While many of its exercises can be done without a therapist, the guidance and support of a therapist makes CBT overall more comprehensive, structured and leads to consistent results.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT)
This therapy combines the benefits of cognitive therapy with that of mindfulness, which is another way of saying meditation. Beyond the identification and change associated with CBT, MCBT also helps you stay focused on the present moment. This means that there are no possible outcomes and futures to be anxious about, and more often than not – no real threats or dangers to fear.
Psychodynamic therapy is another effective way of treating and overcoming fear and anxiety. It focuses on overcoming psychological conflicts rooted in your past. For example, if you have a lifelong history of maladaptive coping mechanisms that promote anxiety instead of alleviating it, psychodynamic therapy can help you understand why and how this occurs. The therapist will naturally ask about your early experiences, then work with you to address them openly so that you know what you’re dealing with and how you can overcome it.
What About Online Therapy?
Online therapy is an alternative to in-person therapy that is getting momentum these days, in no small part due to the effects of the pandemic. Different therapeutic approaches differ in how well they translate to online counseling, but generally speaking, most of the ones that are used for treating anxiety and fear are just as effective when implemented online.
Online therapy uses the same type of treatment strategies and techniques offered in person and is just as valuable in helping you better understand and overcome your fear and anxiety.
The primary difference between online therapy and in-person therapy is the medium: physically being next to your therapist or communicating with them via video calls, phone calls, or text messages.
Each option has its own pros and cons. For example, it is easier to form a trusting relationship in person, but the therapist having to maintain or rent an office means therapy will be more expensive, and you needing to travel to and from their office adds extra time and money to the equation. It also means that you are limited by the selection of therapists near you. Depending on where you live, this may be a very big deciding factor, as finding a therapist that is right for you is not always a simple or short process.
On the flip side, online therapy solves these issues by not requiring a physical space, but the relationship with your therapist is slower in forming, which affects the progression of therapy (though not its overall effectiveness).
Overcoming fear and anxiety is often a big challenge, but there is no reason to take on this challenge all by yourself. Life is often hard enough as it is, so why not reach out for help?
Professional help is a proven way to effectively overcome anxiety and fear. At DoMental, our therapists are always ready and willing to help you. All you have to do is ask.