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Anxiety Versus Fear

Anxiety and fear are terms that are used interchangeably both in scientific terminology and in lay language, but they describe different emotional states and, therefore, represent unique concepts. Like other emotional states, they are conceptualized to exist on continua and are described in terms of three response systems: (1) behavioral, (2) cognitive, and (3) physiological. Responses in the three systems may occur simultaneously or independently; there are significant differences in reactivity across individuals. At mild to moderate levels, anxiety and fear are positive, helpful emotions; for instance, when considering an upcoming exam, a mild level of anxiety may result in increased attention to the task, including improved time management and a greater level of studying and exam preparation.

Fear is the immediate, in-the-moment reaction to ...

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