Three Types of Fear

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The Negative Self

Sometimes, it’s easy to tell our decisions are fear-based.

Our hearts are pounding, cold sweat on our brow, and we’re facing down something we know, without a doubt we’re afraid of.

But fear is an insidious thing and shows up in many forms. At it’s most sneaky, it weasels its way into the nooks and crannies between our good ideas, subverts our minds sending them into dark places, and just generally wreaks havoc on our decision making process from deep within us.

In the crush and relationship arena, there are three main types of fear that are seen most often. Anxiety, Panic, and Dread. Each has it’s own nuances and some are much easier to deal with than others.


Anxiety is probably the most common, generally low-level fear you’re going to encounter. It’s that little bit of twisting in your gut, that dry-mouth and tongue-tied feeling you get when you know that girl you like is somewhere in the supermarket and, at any moment, you may turn the corner and find yourself face to face with her. What will you say? Will she even know who you are? What if you make a fool out of yourself? Oh God! Why did you wear that shirt?

This is the little fear that worries most about all the possibilities that are out there in front of you. It preoccupies itself with everything that could go wrong and makes you second-guess everything you’re doing at any given moment. It can be just as paralyzing as any of the greater fears and can quickly be escalated to Panic when suddenly brought face to face by what you’ve been anxious about.

(Note: This is not to be confused with the diagnosable Social Anxiety Disorder or any other clinical disorder, syndrome, or whatnot. This is just a natural, normal, thing that everyone experiences from time to time. If your anxiety reactions really are present all the time in situations, you should probably consider having that looked into by a professional.)


Panic is the obvious fear for most people. It leads in one of two directions, depending on the person. Either a complete spazzing out of both body and mind or a complete shutdown and resignation.

When the former is exhibited, there can be screaming, flailing, running away (or attacking), and a general descent into downright instinctual behaviors. In the later, a state of catatonia can come over the person as they pretty much just “go away”, too terrified to deal with the situation at hand.

It comes up in relationships when catch our significant other cheating on us, when we slip while approaching that person we’re interested in and fall on our face, when our anxiety gets the best of us. Often, it can be the result of a negative spiral that’s been egged on by dread or anxiety.

Panic is fear rising to the surface and eliminating all rational thought. The mind and the body disconnect, making us lose control. It is debilitating and can make us do things we wouldn’t normally do. Once we’ve panicked, we can have residual anxiety about it being triggered again. It can lead to feelings of embarrassment and other problems when we have to deal with those who’ve seen us panic.


Dread is the most insidious of all the types of fear. It has no real form of its own and permeates every empty space in our minds if we let it. Dread is general sense that nothing is quite right, that everything is on the verge of going bad… and that there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Prolonged anxiety can grow into dread. A series of bad experiences can, too. If we try again and again to make something work, but fail every time (either by objective standards or by our own subjective ones), the seeds of dread are planted.

Once it begins to grow, dread is the most difficult kind of fear to rid yourself of. It is disheartening and spirit killing. It makes everything seem hopeless and can quickly lead to depression. It makes anxiety more common and can lead to a quicker onset of a panic reaction. Dread keeps us constantly on edge, waiting for the next thing to go wrong.

Dread is also the type of fear that can most deftly get in the way of our logical thought process. It works with our own negativity to skew our perception of things, to blind us to options, and to discourage us from doing anything that could change the situation–because that change could make things worse, too.

Individually, any of these types of fear (or other types that are encountered in other situations) can be problematic. If more than one of them occur at once or in rapid succession, we can feel completely incompetent and lost.

But, if we become aware of when these fears are creeping in, we stand a chance against them. Next time, we’ll look at some ways to tell our decisions and actions are being influenced by our negativity and fear.

What’s the most scared you’ve ever been? How did you deal with it? How do you deal with your anxiety, panic, and dread?

Series NavigationFear as a Motivator and InhibitorFive Clues That Your Decisions Are Based on Fear
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