Fear is a natural response that triggers behaviours to help us cope in adverse or unexpected situations that threaten our wellbeing or survival – like a fire or a physical attack.
Fear is a familiar emotion because it is something everyone experiences. While we think of it as an essential part of being human it’s also a psychological, physiological and behavioural state we share with animals.
Fear may also be felt when we are faced with less threatening situations, like exams, public speaking, job interview, or a date anything we might feel could be challenging in some way.
What is the difference between fear and anxiety?
Fear and anxiety are often used to describe similar things but fear has a specific, immediate context which provokes classic ‘fight or flight’ reflexes. This automatic response occurs faster than conscious thought and releases surges of adrenaline which disappear quickly once the threat has passed.
Anxiety, on the other hand, involves a lingering apprehension, a chronic sense of worry, tension or dread. Often anxiety involves certain thought patterns. Anxious responses are usually more unclear than the things that result in fear. It may be associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, rather than something happening in the present.
How does fear affect us?
When you feel frightened, your mind prepares you to respond to the emergency or threat, this is the fight or flight response cycle. Physical responses include the increase in blood flow to your muscles, increase in blood sugar in your blood stream and focusing your mind on the thing that threatens you. This may have a number of effects:
your heartbeat speeds up.
your stomach feels uneasy
concentration is hard
you may freeze
eating and drinking is diffuclt.
your muscles tense up.
Fear can last for a short time and then pass but may last much longer and stay with us. In some cases it can take over our lives, affecting significant parts of our daily life’s for long periods of time. Fear stops may prevent us travelling, going to work or school, or even leaving the house. It may prevent us from doing simple things and may impact on our health too.
How can I help myself?
Fear may overwhelm the individual to the extent that they may want to avoid situations that they previosuly engaged in. It is however possible to learn through support and self help techniques to feel less fearful.
One of the first steps to managing fear is to face your fear. Always avoiding situations that scare you, may stop you doing things you want or need to do and you won’t be able to test out whether the situation is as bad as your anxiety would lead you to believe.
Through recording your fears and noting what happens and when and through slowly exposing yourself to your fears over a planned period you may be able to learn to control your fears. You can also carry a list of strategies to help you when fear takes hold.
Relax Learning relaxation techniques can help you with the mental and physical feelings of fear. You could also learn things like yoga, meditation, massage or try a relaxation via online or digital resources.
Exercise Take more physical exercise this can trigger brain chemicals that improve your mood. Exercise needs concentration and this can take your mind off your fears it also promotes confidence on a number of levels including social interaction for example where people share a common interest in an experience or sport (e.g. cycling). Exercise and Mental Health
Healthy eating Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid too much sugar. The government guidelines are five portions of fruit and vegetables a day see: Healthy Eating The effect of sugar can result in a sudden energy rush followed by a drop in mood, which may lead to fear. Moderating tea or coffee may help as caffeine can increase anxiety levels.
Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation Alcohol consumption is a common way people may to manage fear. But the after effects of alcohol can make the effects of fear worse.
Faith/spirituality If you are religious or spiritual this can help you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. It can provide a way of coping with everyday stress. Church and other faith groups can be a valuable social support network.
Talking to your DoctorYour G.P. will consider fear as a mental health problem when it’s severe and long lasting. If you feel anxious all the time and it prevents you doing the things you need to do in your life, then your doctor should be able to help. It’s often helpful to write a few notes about how you have been feel to take to you visit. You can also take a friend or relative with you to the appointment.
Therapy Talking therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, including self help computerised cognitive behavioural therapy, are very effective for people with anxiety problems. Your G.P. can give you more information. In addition, online resources can may be of use.
Support groups Self help groups bring together people with similar experiences so they can share experiences and encourage each other to try out new ways of managing their worries.
Medication Drug treatments can provide short term relief from the symptoms, but anxiety problems often require additional supports to address thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
Click here for RAMH FIRST Crisis. F.I.R.S.T Crisis is an out of hours Crisis Service which provides a short term support to anyone aged 16 or over experiencing a crisis in their mental health in Renfrewshire.
The Samaritans have trained volunteers able to listen to you any time day or night. They can help you talk through whatever is troubling you, find the answers that are right for you, and offer support.You don’t have to give your real name or any personal information if you don’t want to. The quickest way to contact them and get a response is phoning on 116 123, this number is FREE to call.
Click here for Breathing Space . They are a free, confidential, phone service for anyone in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.