There Are Only 3 Types Of Fear — Attachment Therapist Explains How To Deal With Each One

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fearful woman

Whether it's shaky hands or stumbling over words, we've all felt those telltale signs of fear at some point in our lives. But did you know there were different types of fear?

Attachment therapist Eli Harwood breaks down the three types of fear we might face and how to better handle them.



The Three Types Of Fear And How To Deal With Them, According To An Attachment Therapist

1. Present Fear

The first kind of fear is the fear of the present. Northwestern Medicine writes, “As soon as you recognize fear, your amygdala goes to work. It alerts your nervous system, which sets your body fear response into motion.”

When we enter fight-flight-or-freeze mode, certain areas in our brains begin to shut down. This is when we make instinctual decisions to scream, run, or defend ourselves.

These seemingly irrational reactions are put in place to protect our bodies, explains Harwood. It tells us to avoid that stranger or to run away from that snake.

That's why we don't want to waste our energy trying to control our fear. Instead, we need to let our bodies ride out that fear to keep ourselves safe.

RELATED: Why We Experience Fear — And What To Do About It

2. Anxiety

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Anxiety refers to the anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.”

This form of fear is tricky, as it can both benefit and hurt us. According to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety helps motivate us to solve problems or remain alert. However, anxiety also causes us to overthink and fixate on the issue.

And though experiencing anxiety is a normal occurrence too much can be a bad thing. It can cause us to avoid uncomfortable situations or withdraw from our loved ones, explains the Mental Health Foundation.

Therefore, Harwood suggests questioning yourself to help manage anxiety. Ask yourself, “What can I do to be prepared so I can let go of being scared,” says Harwood.

Once you've established a plan then it's time to let go. You've done everything you could to prepare. The best thing you can do now is to take deep breaths and wait it out.

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"Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that triggers feelings of fear even after the danger has passed," explains the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Contrary to popular belief, PTSD doesn't always manifest immediately. It may take months or even years for symptoms to become obvious.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, signs of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Constant nightmares
  • Angry outbursts
  • Problems remembering
  • Avoiding memories of the traumatic event

PTSD can occur for a variety of reasons, including natural disasters, severe accidents, war, or assault.

Want to deal with your PTSD? The best approach is to seek professional counseling. Professional help is the best tool to heal as it provides a personalized plan based on your personal experiences.

But if counseling is not an option, then try leaning on your loved ones for support. Your loved ones are there to support you through these difficult times. They're there to release both your pain and shame, says Harwood.

Understanding the type of fear we experience allows us to better address that fear in the future.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.