PTSD and Fear: How Are You Managing It?

October 12, 2012 Michele Rosenthal

Here's the funny thing about the PTSD experience: Uncomfortable emotions become so familiar you don't even notice that you have them!

For example, in my own recovery, it wasn't until the anxiety disappeared that I realized I'd been living in such a state of high anxiety. Why is that??

Negative Emotions Become Normalized in PTSD

Redefining your relationship to emotions is an important aspect of PTSD recovery. In this video I offer you a challenge about how you experience and relate to fear. Are you up for it?? I think you are!

Michele is the author of Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity. Connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her website,

APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2012, October 12). PTSD and Fear: How Are You Managing It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

November, 26 2012 at 8:15 am

My counsellor once asked me, what emotions do you feel in these situations? I said anxiety, she said what about fear? then it hit me these two things are actually different, I was so confused and out of touch with these basic things. Would love to study the difference more.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
November, 27 2012 at 8:18 am

@Nano -- That's a big distinction and you're very smart to realize it! I'll share with you a snippet from my new book that I'm working; it addresses exactly this idea:
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Fear represents a perceived threat in the moment.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety represents a perceived threat in the future.
At the bottom of both emotions are what fear expert, Susan Jeffers, describes as three levels of fear:
Level 1 Fears = (exterior situations) those that happen to us (aging) vs. those that come from our desire to do something (public speaking)
Level 2 Fears = (inner states of mind) involve the ego, i.e. rejection, success, failure, vulnerability
Level 3 Fears = I CAN’T HANDLE IT!
The question is: Now that you understand the difference between fear and anxiety, how does this knowledge impact your perspective, thoughts, behaviors and experiences?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 29 2013 at 8:51 am

Just noticed your reply. Thanks such a detailed response, I'm suprised. Fear touches so many important parts of life, avoid it and you avoid life? do you learn to live with it? Does the charge of fear stop coming in? is there any relationship between fear and anxiety? e.g. I'm anxious about a future event, during the actual event am I going to be more vulnerable to a fear reaction? Hope I dont sound thick.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
January, 30 2013 at 9:25 am

@NANO -- Those are terrific questions! Yes, I think you're right, we can miss a lot of life if we spend all our time (as we often do with PTSD) trying to avoid fear. You've really hit the difference between fear and anxiety: fear is in the present, anxiety projects into the future. And, yes, if you spend a lot of time fanning the fire of anxiety then fear in the moment can definitely increase. What I really see help is developing practices that promote the 3Cs: calm, clarity and coolness. Things like mindfulness, guided visualization, meditation, breathwork, etc. can all lower both your physiological and psychological stress response -- and even reprogram it!
For more information about all of these ideas, plus how to begin implementing them into your life, take a look at the archives of my radio show, YOUR LIFE AFTER TRAUMA. I've interviewed the top experts in the field and they all very generously offers tips and explanations during each show. You can find the complimentary series here:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 31 2013 at 6:35 am

You've a book of solutions, I've a book of questions, archieves here I come. Thank God for you, counsellors and the internet reaching across the Atlantic to the rough western edge of europe where if you practice the 3C's you hear the wind, rain and trees. Our own Cetltic meditation.

Mary matheson
July, 21 2020 at 5:57 am


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