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Facts About Fears and Phobias

Fear is experienced in your mind, but it triggers a strong physical reaction in your body. As soon as you recognize fear, your amygdala (the small organ in the middle of your brain) goes to work. It alerts your nervous system, which sets your body’s fear response into motion. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase. You start breathing faster. Even your blood flow changes as blood flow away from your heart and into your limbs, making it easier for you to start throwing punches, or run for your life. Your body is preparing for fight or flight. 

Fear can make you foggy as some parts of your brain are revving up, others are shutting down. When the amygdala senses fear, the cerebral cortex (area of the brain that harnesses reasoning and judgment) becomes impaired so now it’s difficult to make good decisions or think clearly. As a result, you might scream and throw your hands up when approached by an actor in a haunted house, unable to rationalize that the threat is not real.

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The difference between fear and phobia is simple. Fears are common reactions to events or objects. But fear becomes a phobia when it interferes with your ability to function and maintain a consistent quality of life. If you start taking extreme avoidance measures, you may have a phobia. Fear is a natural and biological condition that we all experience. We must experience fear because it keeps us safe. Fear is a complex human emotion that can be positive and healthy, but it can also have negative consequences.
Fear and anxiety can last for a short time and then pass, but they can also last much longer. In some cases, they can take over your life, affecting your ability to eat, sleep, concentrate, travel, enjoy life, or even leave the house or go to work or school. This can hold you back from doing things you want or need to do, and it also affects your health.

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The physical feelings of fear can be scary in themselves especially if you are experiencing them and you don’t know why, or if they seem out of proportion to the situation. Instead of alerting you to danger and preparing you to respond to it, your fear or anxiety can kick in for any perceived threat, which could be imaginary or minor.

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Reference

How to overcome fear and anxiety | Mental Health Foundation. (2022).
Northwestern Medicine. (2022). 5 Things You Never Knew About Fear

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