Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential part of keeping us safe.
However, when people live in constant fear, whether from physical dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, they can experience negative impacts in all areas of their lives and even become incapacitated.
How fear works
Fear prepares us to react to danger. Once we sense a potential danger, our body releases hormones that:
- Slow or shut down functions not needed for survival (such as our digestive system)
- Sharpen functions that might help us survive (such as eyesight). Our heart rate increases, and blood flows to muscles so we can run faster.
Our body also increases the flow of hormones to an area of the brain known as the amygdala to help us focus on the presenting danger and store it in our memory.