The Biology of Fear

Wednesday, February 29 2012 Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Fear is a biological response. The fearful stimuli tells our amygdala to release adrenaline (our “fight or flight” hormone). The sole purpose of this is to give us energy to fight or flee. In other words, its purpose is to get us to act, once we act, the fear is pointless. And, usually goes away, since acting has us feeling empowered, not so out of control. Our focus becomes on our tasks at hand, and the worry get relegated to the background.

Fear and Feeling Helpless

However, we are not walking in the woods and see a dangerous animal, like our ancestors did. In today’s day and age, our anxieties are usually about things we feel helpless to affect: war, climate change, getting sick, violence, a loved one dying, or not being good enough. The helplessness feeds the anxiety. And in return we are immobilized by it. Our body and brain don't know what to do with the energy it conjured to act, and we feel imprisoned by panic.

When this happens we need to focus on our personal agency: how we can respond. We need to do something and feel empowered by it. Something that helps us feel a sense of control. Even though we might not be able to control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it. Even the smallest action can help the fear decrease. (That's why people often pace when they are in panic mode. This actually helps them a bit.)

We are never completely helpless, though anxiety has us feeling this way about everything. So try to do something, any little action can make a difference. Sitting in the panic is usually the worse thing you can do.

How do you respond when you are scared and anxious?

By Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I blog here: Heal Now and Forever Be In Peace
and here: Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog,
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Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

View all posts by Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R.

The Biology of Fear

Jodi Lobozzo Aman: Heal Now and Forever
says:
February, 29 2012 at 5:46 am

[...] Newest post: The Biology of Fear [...]

Kelly Hashway
says:
February, 29 2012 at 6:00 am

I completely agree. I have to do something--it doesn't matter what--when I'm scared or nervous. Otherwise that fear just gets worse.

nikky44
says:
February, 29 2012 at 6:45 am

Depending on the situation. If my panic and anxiety are due to a "danger" that is happening to someone in front of me, or to a situation where there is something we can do, I usually react and act very calmly but fast. It's when the danger is gone, that i feel tired, that i become shaky and/or tearful.
When it's general anxiety, I usually "disconnect" from my body. I don't know how it happens, but it does. I feel absent and like it's happening to someone else.
The most "uncontrollable" are panic attacks,because most of times unexpected, so i don't have the time to focus before it happens.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 2 2012 at 11:47 am

Hi Nikky! Put "seemingly" before the "most' in the last sentence! Read it again and then think of a plan you can come up with for when you are blindsided by a panic attack. Write it down read it over and over. When the attack comes, the plan is fresh in your mind and readily available.

In reply to by jaman

nikky44
says:
March, 5 2012 at 12:32 am

You're right, absolutely right. After all, it happens so often, and although it feels awful, it's nothing dangerous we can't get over.Thank you Jodi

Nancy
says:
March, 1 2012 at 1:38 pm

Of course, the specific action I take in times of stress depends on the situation, but the imperative is to move. I'll go for a walk or a swim if I can. Sometimes just moving my lips, i.e. having a good chatfest with a close friend can help shift my perspective.

Elise Renee Gingerich
says:
March, 5 2012 at 8:52 pm

I've Had My Most Recent Anxiety Problems, Since Winter Of 2011! (Yes, I Said That I Had My Most Recent Anxiety Problems, Since Last Winter Of 2011!) I Also Got Very Sick In Fall Of 2010 Into 2011 (Yes, I Was Basically Sick For All Of Fall 2010 Right Into 2011!) Bodily Disease Does Not Feel Good At All. (No, Having Bodily Disease, Does Not Feel Very Good At All!) :( Needless To Say, I Haven't Been Downtown Lawrence Kansas Since. (No I Haven't Really Been Downtown Lawrence Kansas, Since About Then, Not Really.....)

Jill
says:
March, 28 2012 at 6:46 pm

So funny, I was just having a conversation about acting my way out of panic attacks a few days ago. It was prompted by a discussion I had with a friend of mine who is a scientist. You can't think your way out of fear but you can act it. Great post!

nikky44
says:
March, 30 2012 at 5:30 am

Jodi, I know that a panic attack is a result of anxiety. It says that it can last from few minutes until maybe few hours. What is it called when it's ongoing for over 5 days, of course with moments where symptoms are less aggressive, but still there. It can't be called attack, but what is it? how to treat it else than tranquilizers?

March, 30 2012 at 6:22 am

Sure heightened anxiety can happen over days, or weeks. You can call it anything you'd like that describes it for you. (will talk about names next week). You treat it like you treat any other anxiety, worries, fear, etc: trusting yourself.

In reply to by jaman

nikky44
says:
March, 30 2012 at 11:19 am

Thank you Jodi. I love your reply, because it doesn't involve medication, and it looks so simple. I may not see much now the link between the physical symptoms and trusting myself, but I'm sure you are right <3

What is Anxiety? | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
April, 4 2012 at 4:23 am

[...] adrenal glands that increase heart rate and breathing, and gives a burst of energy to our muscles: Biology of Fear) but don’t call it anxiety. They call it stress or discomfort. That is fine! It doesn’t [...]

Jack Yianitsas
says:
April, 10 2012 at 12:34 pm

For five years, Jack Yianitsas experienced the debilitating symptoms of fear, anxiety, and depression. Often these symptoms are diagnosed by physicians as panic attack disorder or anxiety disorder. In a constant state of anxiety and panic, he searched desperately for a way out of his forest of despair. Following what seemed to be an almost insurmountable degree of frustration and disappointment, he found the way to his permanent recovery from his severe anxiety symptoms.

http://frompanictopeace.blogspot.com/2012/04/healing-words-in-challengi…

http://ezinearticles.com/6823447

Ten Things To Do For A Panic Attack | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
May, 2 2012 at 1:42 am

[...] and panic.9. Go for a walk. Get a change of scenery and use up some of that excess energy. The biology of fear is the release of adrenaline makes your body want to do something. Doing something and feeling a [...]

Dr Musli Ferati
says:
May, 15 2012 at 1:43 am

Indeed, this paper is another excellent suggestion on dealing with the feeling of fear, as our emotional response to concrete or fictive danger. I can only to augment the fact that the essence of whole emotional performance is our brain, respectively its limb system, as modulating centre of our vulnerable emotional life. Your welcome advises to face successfully with sense of scare and anxiety, with instant undertaking any action, fulfills the statement that our brain have great capacity of adjustment in front of many threaten daily events. It is our choice,if we would implement in efficient way this adaptive capability of our brain as comprehensive organ of global life functioning.

Anxiety: How Do We Get It? How Do We Get Rid of It? | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
June, 9 2012 at 4:18 am

[...] a context to it, an anxiety trigger. Always some perception of vulnerability that triggers the physiological response and the emotional response. But have you wondered why we get anxiety in the first place?How Do We [...]

mike
says:
June, 11 2012 at 6:26 pm

If I could just CRY it would be so cleansing and relaxing. Still not sure why this is happening to me but I am trying real hard to reaso0n it out instead of going crazy.

June, 11 2012 at 8:04 pm

Crying is indeed cleansing. I encourage it. Let me know,Mike, if I can help at all. Thinking of you!

The Evolutionary Roots of Fear | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
August, 1 2012 at 9:34 am

[...] though action. Do something! And the amygdale will send calming signals to the neocortex! (See Biology of Fear, and Ten Things to Do For a Panic Attack)What do you do when you are panicked? Find me on [...]

Questions About Panic Attacks | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
November, 21 2012 at 5:49 am

[...] 6. Do something! Actions help a person feel empowered and this obviously has an adverse effect on panic attacks, which make a person feel disempowered. Remember, it is just a feeling, not real. Read the Biology of Fear. [...]

Fear of Losing Someone You Love | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
November, 28 2012 at 10:08 am

[...] the biological reason for fear is to get us to act, after the action, the fear is pointless. (Worse than pointless, as it hurts [...]

Six Ways To Parent Children Through Anxiety | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog
says:
January, 9 2013 at 6:15 am

[...] must keep in mind that it is not fear that is the problem. Fear is biological and can be appropriate. (This fear can pass quickly.) When children experience anxiety, it is the [...]

Tito
says:
May, 25 2015 at 1:01 am

Nice article to read

Tito
says:
May, 25 2015 at 1:06 am

thing will always keep on changing, so let there be no fear of any change

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