Understanding and Overcoming Fear

What is the Fear Factor?

Fear is something every single person experiences throughout their life at one point or another, even if some cannot admit to it. Fear is a subjective topic, since each unique individual has their own particular things or situations that induce fear, stress, or anxiety. This is one of the most intense emotional responses that we can have as humans, and heavy levels of constant fear can affect us greatly. The fear factor is engrained into each and every one of us in one way or another, whether it be a fear of heights, crowded places, death, darkness, or public speaking. There might not always be a reason behind why someone is afraid of a particular thing, but sometimes there is, and it can indeed be stemmed from quite traumatizing incidences. Let’s discuss the fear factor, as well as some in-depth information about this emotion, how it affects us, and what to do when it starts to impede on our daily lives.


What Exactly is Fear?

The fear factor of humans may only come into play when we are immediately threatened, or it can be more severe and be present every single day. Fear influences a variety of physiological functions that can actually be seen as well as measured. Think of a time you felt the sensation of fear, you may have noticed your heart rate sped up, your breath became shallow, and you might have even started to shake. Fear is an intuitive response that is not always easy to explain, because we might not even understand why we are afraid of certain things or situations. Fear is considered an emotional state, just like happiness, grief, or anger are.

Maybe you remember the popular show that used to air that was even called “Fear Factor.” The contestants in the show were asked to perform outlandish, stressful tasks that most people would intuitively be very afraid of, and this made for great television that captivated audiences. As individuals, we would not want to be immersed into the situations of this show, but it was fascinating to observe complete strangers deal with them for whatever reason. Some people certainly enjoy the sensation of fear and the adrenaline rush it brings, which is why you will find some individuals that love to watch horror movies, attend haunted houses around Halloween, and do things like skydive. It is an extremely powerful motivator, especially when we feel threatened or find ourselves in a dangerous situation. At the core of it, fear is really meant to protect us instinctually to keep us safe from any harm.

Fear can in fact also stem from certain mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and anxiety disorders. When this is the case, mental health assistance in the form of therapy, counseling, or support groups can help abundantly if you are seeking to diminish fear that is plaguing too much of your daily life.


How Does Fear Affect Us?

It may not seem like fear always has that much of an effect on us, but when it is consistently present it can absolutely start to take a toll. There are intricate physiological processes that take place when we are met with a fear-inducing situation, such as a rush of the adrenaline, which is the primary hormone that sends us into fight-or-flight mode in stressful and alarming circumstances. Physical manifestations of fear can include sweating, stomach pain, chills, and an increase in the heart rate. Just as fear is deemed as an emotion, it can send us into feeling a degree of anxiety, distress, and shock, too. Fear is a very necessary emotion to have for any dangerous situations that might (but hopefully do not) arise, but when this state of complete fear is felt on a consistent, regular basis, it can put extreme stress on the body.


When Fear Starts to Interfere

There are of course many cases of when fear begins to impede on daily life and snowballs out of control. This starts to fall into the area of phobias, which are defined as extreme or irrational fear of something. Some phobias that we often hear about are arachnophobia, or the intense fear of spiders, agoraphobia, the fear of leaving the house or being in public, and claustrophobia, which is the fear of tight and confined spaces. These can easily begin to weigh on the enjoyment of day-to-day life if nothing is done to work through them. The thought of working through fears can be fear-inducing in and of itself but facing them head on and being free from the burden is typically always worth it in the end. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are both the most commonly used forms of therapy when fear is the issue at hand. Exposure therapy puts an emphasis on altering the reaction to whichever stimuli that is producing fear, and CBT also involves exposure, but it works in other tactics and methods of managing any fear or anxiety present. CBT concentrates on learning and understanding your phobia on a deeper level, why it causes the reaction that it does, and how to best handle the fear if and when it manifests.

The emotion of fear is necessary to have, even if it is not always fun or enjoyable to experience. When fear starts to overtake the ability to function in everyday life, it is vital to seek help and become acquainted with different coping mechanisms and strategies that can assist you in working through and lessening severe anxiety and levels of fear. Maybe there is a specific fear you want to completely face head on and come out on the other side of, which is entirely possible and can leave you feeling extremely brave, powerful, and strong. It is okay to have feelings of fear in life, but also remember that you can overcome anything you wish to, as well.


Getting Help

If you are experiencing fear that interferes with your life, we are ready to help you overcome that fear. We have a team of psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication management. Our team of compassionate and skilled professionals is available for in person appointments for patients in the DFW area. We also offer online appointments for patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston and San Antonio areas


Dr. Michael Messina

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