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The dictionary defines fear as:

1.  a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined
2.  concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
3.  reverential awe, especially toward God
4.  something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension
5.  something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.

Other words for fear include: worry, anxiety, panic, stress, afraid, dread, hypertension, foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation and qualm.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is used by psychiatrists or GPs to help them decide which diagnosis a person experiencing mental distress should receive.  Their Anxiety disorder classifications include:

  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Attack
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder due to general medical condition
  • Agoraphobia
  • Agoraphobia without history of Panic Disorder
  • Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
  • Anxiety Disorder not otherwise specified

I like these definitions the least, because once it becomes a medical diagnosis, it’s in the hands of the medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies and out of the individual’s ability to change.  It’s disempowering and unhelpful.

Some people suggest fear is an acronym for:

False Evidence Appearing Real

False Emotions Appearing Real

False Expectations About Reality

Forget Everything And Run

Forgetting Everything About Reality

Forgetting Everything’s All Right

Finding Excuses And Reasons

Failure Expected And Recieved

Future Events Appearing Real

Future Events Appear Real

Future Events Already Ruined

Frantic Effort to Avoid Reality


I like this definition best, because it suggests there is something wrong with our thinking, which is in our power to change.

However we define fear, some studies suggest that between 60-90% of visits to GPs and other health care professions are stress related.

Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the US (these two medications totaled almost $5 Billion in sales in 2002).

According to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and based on data gathered by the association and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S. More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of healthcare services, as those with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

Statistics from a recent global stress research study show that stress is felt worldwide, and stress affects women differently than men (The Health Centre, 2006). A recent Roper Starch Worldwide survey of 30,000 people between the ages of 13 and 65 in 30 countries showed that:

  • Nearly one in four mothers who work full-time and have children under 13 feel stress almost every day and report the greatest stress worldwide
  • Globally, 23% of women executives and professionals, and 19% of their male peers, say they feel ‘super-stressed’

As long as we look to science to find the answers, we fall deeper into the hole and can’t ever get out.  When we look to religion, there are lots of answers from the Divine Physician, a source we can trust.  When we learn to apply the Divine Remedy, there is hope for a complete recovery.

Henry Wright, a Christian Minister who introduced me to the idea that perhaps as much as 80% of all diseases are caused by specific sins (anger, bitterness, jealousy, fear, worry) has coined his study “pneumapsychosomatolgy ®” or PPS.  PPS is a field of study and application that encompasses spirituality, theology, science, medicine, psychology and psychiatry.   It is a Biblically-based, integrative approach to health beyond disease management.  The aim is toward healing, prevention and eradication of disease through understanding the principles of the spirit, soul, body connection.

In a recent newsletter, he said:

The terms for fear in today’s society are stress and anxiety. We do not recognize it as fear. The world tries to find other words to mask the Biblical perspective because the world wants to deal with things psychologically.

The activity of a spirit of Fear has been masked as a psychological defect and the big word that hides our true enemy can be found in one term called “negative emotions”. But Paul said in Ephesians 6 that our war, our battle, is not with flesh and blood.

This opens a new dimension. No wonder we have not had much success in healing for psychological and biological problems, even in Christianity, because we do not recognize our enemy. We do not even see the kingdom that is working in us and teaching us how to think opposite of our God. When we see the effects of it in our lives, we just call it a psychological defect.

Even in Christian psychiatry, with all due respect, when we see the imbalances of body chemistry caused by fear (as in anxiety and stress), rather than getting them out of our life and having our mind renewed (mind of Christ), we try to balance the imbalance of chemistry through psychiatric drugs. That does not deliver us; that does not heal us. It binds us to the problem without the true enemy being defeated.

In fact it is an attempt to bypass the penalty of disobedience artificially without taking responsibility for the participation with sin that caused the disease. This is key to the equation of the pathways to disease and healing.

Caveat:  While I believe it’s true that anxiety has a spiritual component, the House of Justice has said:

Regarding your question about methods of healing which involve temporarily re-experiencing or remembering events, these are complex medical matters and as stipulated in the Teachings, believers should seek the best medical advice which is available and follow it. Experience seems to suggest that the healing process can often be a lengthy and stressful one requiring the close guidance and help of trained professionals. Advice given by well-meaning believers to the effect that you should seek to transcend psychological problems does not qualify as competent advice on what is essentially a medical issue.  (Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Obviously I support their encouragement to consult trained professionals, and for some people, this may mean medical doctors who aren’t trained in the spiritual realities of life.

In the next series of articles, I want to look at what the Baha’i Writings have to say about fear and anxiety, and hopefully by the end, those who are afflicted in this way will have some spiritual tools to advance their recovery, in addition to any other tools they may also find useful from other perspectives.  As with everything in the Faith, combining religion with science is always a good idea!  Science has a lot to say on this topic – so my focus will be to look at what religion has to say.

For More in this Series:

What are we Afraid Of?

Reactions to Fear 

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Doubt and Fear  

What is the Purpose of Fear?

What about the Fear of God? 

What Makes us Susceptible to Fear?

Understanding the Link Between Fear and Sin 

Overcoming Fear – Introduction 

Overcoming Fear By Turning to God

Overcoming Fear with Prayer

Overcoming Fear By Reading the Writings

Overcoming Fear By Focusing on the Virtues 

Overcoming Fear Through Love

Overcoming Fear with Faith

Overcoming Fear with Patience

Overcoming Fear through Courage

Overcoming Fear through Teaching and Service

Overcoming Fear By Changing your Thoughts

Overcoming Fear through Forgiveness

Overcoming Fear through Using Role Models

Overcoming Fear through Tests and Difficulties

What Can Others Do, To Help Those Who Are Afraid?

 Prayers to Eliminate Fear


What stood out for you as you read this posting?  Post your comments here: