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Understanding the Difference between Fear & Anxiety

Reported by john_kelsey@ipsd.org on 4/30/19

Fear = emotional response to a known or definite threat

Anxiety = a diffuse, unpleasant, vague sense of apprehension that is often due to an imprecise or unknown threat

It’s normal for children and adolescents to experience some level of fear as they grow, and the vast majority of children wrestle with a least a few fears at any given age. Whether a child is two, twelve or sixteen years old, it would be unusual for him or her to be "fear-free." (Focus on the Family Canada)

As children grow, they overcome some fears, and new fears may take their place. In fact, children of similar ages tend to share similar types of fears.

Common fears in adolescents and teens include:

· Ages 7-12 – dogs, school issues, performance anxiety, social anxiety, fires, heights, darkness, thunderstorms, burglars, kidnappers, injury, illness, death, natural disasters, nuclear war

· Teens – school issues, performance anxiety, social anxiety, personal future, natural disasters, nuclear war

Fear can be a great way to adolescents and teens to learn about paying attention to warning signs in their own bodies, and it can open to the door to valuable communication between children and guardians. For some tips on discussing fear with your child, check out the article “Appreciating Fear in Adolescents”

Fear and anxiety begin to become problematic when children are not able to return to normal activities after comforting. One of the most definitive signs of an anxiety disorder is an excessive, irrational fear or dread that lasts for at least six months, and that significantly interferes with a child’s enjoyment of life at school and at home. If you are worried that your child’s fear is becoming a bigger issue, it can be helpful to seek more information from your pediatrician or a mental health professional such as a psychologist, social worker, or counselor.

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