Worry and Fear: The Differences and Similarities


When it comes to worry and fear, it is easy to get these two confused. They are very similar in definition and commonality. Some people have specific phobias. Such as cleithrophobia, the fear of being trapped or stuck. Others may also find being trapped less desirable, but it’s not a constant thought. How can you know if you are afraid or worried? And at what point does it become problematic?

What Does it Mean to Be Afraid?

While being worried means being nervous about future events, fear is the negative feeling of a specific thing or item. Everyone has a different fear. For instance, Sally may be afraid of snakes, but she loves bungee jumping. Someone else may love all animals but are deathly afraid of heights. Being fearful means feeling threatened by an outside source. Fear can elicit both emotional and physical symptoms. Such as hyperventilation, excessive sweating, increased heart rate, and trembling. Similar to being worried, fear can cause feelings of anxiousness and dread.

What Does it Mean to Be Worried?

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, worry means “thinking about unpleasant things that have happened or that might happen and therefore feeling unhappy and afraid.” In this definition, you’ll notice that being worried means to be afraid; yet, these are two completely different reactions. Worrying focuses on the feeling of dread. When someone is worried, they fret that something terrible may happen. Worrying is the act of excessively thinking about life’s uncertainties. Similar to being afraid, worry can cause a physical reaction within the body. You can learn more about the physical and emotional symptoms with worry articles from BetterHelp.

Examples of Worry and Fear


  • “I am worried about failing an important exam”
  • “I worry that I will not make friends”
  • “I am worried that my old car will break down”
  • “I worry that I will not be able to pay bills this month”


  • “I’m afraid of small spaces.”
  • “I am afraid of going to the doctor”
  • “I fear that I will get sick”
  • “I’m afraid of heights”

How to Overcome Worry and Fear

Calm Down with Deep Breathing

Whether you feel threatened by an object or worry about the future, you can use deep breathing to calm your mind and body. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests finding a quiet place to slow down and feel grounded. Taking approximately six deep belly breaths can help you process your emotions and calm your physical symptoms.

Determine if You are Afraid or Worried

To help yourself overcome the symptoms of dread and fear, ask yourself a series of questions.

“Am I in danger?”

“What is causing this feeling?”

“What can I do right now?”

By questioning your feelings you can determine if you are afraid or worried. If you are afraid, you take the appropriate steps to remove yourself from the source of your fear, or you can practice various coping techniques. If you are worried, you can treat your symptoms and practice positive affirmations.

Talk About It

In many situations, our fear and worry are irrational. We can get so caught up in our negative feelings that we lose sight of reality. For example, the fear of the dentist may have us convinced that something terrible will happen every time we go. By talking about your fears and worries with other people, you can be reminded of possible and impossible outcomes. You can talk to your family, friends, or a licensed professional. If your fear or worry is hindering your daily life, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Therapy can help you address the root of your problems and teach you helpful coping techniques.

Marie Miguel Biography


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.





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