The physiological and psychological bases of fear

When in certain situations we find ourselves overwhelmed with fear, we experience some really alarming and unpleasant sensations and reactions at the same time.

This answer that we naturally offer it is powerful enough to pierce the body and mind of whoever experiences it. The autonomous response of fear arises long before our reason has been able to decide anything about it, in some sort of chemical summit our body has already been put into service, preparing for flight or attack. imminent.

Fear is one of the most primitive emotions that exist, he was in charge of maximize the chances of survival of our ancestors because it allowed them to respond to threats, but …

… We know what mechanisms are in place cause such an avalanche of reactions in our body?

Physiological responses to fear

the Sympathetic nervous system it is responsible for the body to perform at its peak for a short period of time, just when the individual is panicking. During this time, other less important functions in such situations disintegrate in due course.

the main ones physiological effects faced with the fear exerted by the sympathetic nervous system are:

  • Muscles contract in an attempt to prepare for the escape, at the same time causing tremors and general cramps.
  • The number of enzymes in the stomach decreases considerably to ensure energy savings over time that make us nauseous.
  • Our heart beats in a hurry and blood pressure rises. This causes us to have more speed in the distribution of oxygen between the muscles. This action may cause a feeling of tachycardia, tingling in the arms and legs, and an annoying ringing in the ears.
  • Lung breathing is accelerated significantly increase the exchange between carbon dioxide and oxygen; this action is what causes this unpleasant feeling of tightness in the chest.
  • Our immune system breaks down with the intention of conserving energy, which is why we are more exposed to infections.
  • The pupils of the eyes dilate and tear fluid decreases to increase visual perception.

Once the danger is over …

Once this period has elapsed, if we perceive a solution to the situation, the parasympathetic nervous system is reactivated, which will lead to thwarting the actions of its confidant:

  • The eyes will increase their tear fluid, Which will cause an ineluctable cry
  • The heart will start to beat more slowly and the blood pressure will drop, which can cause dizziness and fainting.
  • Lung breathing will slow down in an attempt to normalize, leading to an unpleasant feeling of suffocation.
  • The bowels and bladder are emptied to promote faster escape, if any, which can lead to uncontrolled urination.
  • Finally, the fileto muscle tension is suddenly lostThis is why stiffness and sagging knees occur.

When the parasympathetic nervous system takes control of our body, it can lead to a situation or state of shock. This set of biochemical responses responds under the name of “fight or fly”, or better known in English under the name of “fight or flight”.

Surely more than one of us has suffered in our own flesh what is called a panic attack. Well, now we know the physiological functioning by which the body acts and the functional responses that it emits.

Fear modulation factors

If we decide to go a little deeper into this construction that we call “fear”, we will see that its scientific study has been deepened.

Normal fear and pathological fear have been distinguished on the basis of certain criteria, such as duration or level of interference in daily functioning, among other factors (Miller, Barrett & Hampe, 1974). In order to classify well, you must first know the main existing fear factorsIn other words, its roots and the causes that generate it.

The causes and initiators of fear

The most consistent factors for classifying the types of supports seem to be, according to the classification proposed by Gullon, (2000):

  • Social rejection
  • Death and danger
  • animals

  • Medical treatment
  • Psychiatric stress
  • The fear of the Unknown

Types of fear

By evaluating these factors we could classify who discriminates the level of fear affect each person and in a given situation, highlighting the most studied and treated types of fear today we find the following distribution:

  • by physical
  • by social
  • by metaphysics

How do we deal with fear?

We must first learn to naturalize this emotionOtherwise, it can manipulate our lives to the point of becoming a pathological disorder. The fear of danger must be accepted and its stricter connotations understood, so we can learn to regulate it.

We must think about its main function, because it is a decisive impetus to defend ourselves from danger, only we need to assess whether, when this feeling arises, we are faced with a real danger or an unrealistic threat pretentiously crafted by our own mind.

It may sound simple though it is very difficult to deal with repeatedlyBecause fear tends to cripple us and there is no point in trying to rationalize. Fortunately, there are psychological therapies that allow us to influence the psychological mechanisms that install fear in our minds.

“Fear is my most faithful companion, it has never deceived me to go with another”

“Woody Allen.

Bibliographical references:

  • Ekman, P. and Davidson, RJ (1994). The nature of emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Gullone, E. (1996). Developmental psychopathology and normal fear. Behavior change, 13, 143-155.

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