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What is the difference between freak out and afraid? When should we use freak out and when afraid?

OED definition for freak out:

(occas. without out):

to undergo an intense emotional experience, to become > stimulated, to rave, esp. under the influence of hallucinatory drugs. Also trans., to cause (a person) to be aroused or stimulated in such a way. (Also in more trivial uses.)

OED definition for afraid:

adj. Chiefly predicative.

  1. Alarmed, frightened; in a state of fear or apprehension, moved or actuated by fear.
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The OED defines freak out as:

to undergo an intense emotional experience, to become stimulated, to rave, especially under the influence of hallucinatory drugs. Also transitive, to cause (a person) to be aroused or stimulated in such a way.

It is probably best avoided in formal prose.

To be afraid describes an emotional reaction to something perceived as dangerous and thus causing a state of fear.

  • I am 100% sure you can freak out when someone is stalking you. I agree (as per my comment) that it is slang – mplungjan Sep 11 '13 at 7:08
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If you are afraid, you are feeling fear. If you are freaking out, you are having an intense stress reaction to fear, which may (though not necessarily) include physical manifestations such as perspiration, dilated pupils, or screaming. As Barrie England says, "freak out" may not be an appropriate term to use in formal settings.

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Freaking out will generally have an obvious physical response, such as throwing up your hands, sudden sharp screaming, etc.

Being afraid can be a much more quiet and internalised affair.

However, freaking out is becoming more widely used to mean "inside, I feel the way that you would if you were suddenly screaming and throwing up your hands, etc."

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