The Physiological Signs of Fear & How to Cope

The Emotion Series


Welcome back to the emotion series! This five-part series will focus on the seven basic emotions found on the emotion wheel: Sadness, Anger, Happiness, Fear, Disgust, Bad, and Surprised. This series aims to provide helpful information on how to regulate these emotions appropriately. Topics covered will range from identifying emotions to healthy coping mechanisms.


For February, the series will focus on two emotions: Disgust and Fear. While disgust and fear are vastly different emotions, they both serve a purpose to protect us. Disgust protects us from things that we have an aversion to, while fear protects us from threat. Even though these emotions serve to protect us, they sometimes can be overwhelming and may feel as if you have no control. I am here to say that it’s okay to feel that way.


Now, let’s help you learn to cope!

Fear is a strong, powerful emotion that presents itself in the face of threat or danger. It is a survival response that is not only experienced in your mind, but in your body. Fear triggers a strong physiological reaction to prepare our bodies for fight or flight. While you may be able to recognize fear and some of its symptoms, there may be some you are unaware of.


Typical symptoms of fear include:


-Shaking

-Increased heart rate

-Increased blood pressure

-Sweating

- Nausea

-Hot and cold flashes

-Dizziness

-Racing thoughts

-Hyperventilation

-Tingling of limbs

All these symptoms are a sign of fear. You may also experience a boost of energy commonly referred to as adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released from the sympathetic nervous system and activates our bodies fight or flight response. This boost of energy may continue after you have determined the potential threat is no longer a threat and may continue to experience symptoms of Increased heart rate and sweating. You may also experience symptoms of heightened senses, decreased ability to feel pain, increased strength, and feelings of jitteriness.


If you can recognize fear and understand when you are afraid, here are some ways to cope when it becomes too overwhelming:

-Identify fear provoking triggers

-Gauge your level of fear and determine whether it is appropriate to the situation

-Engage in breathing exercises to calm yourself

-Avoid avoidance and face your fear (Only do what feels safe to you!)

-Utilize your support networks

-Take a time out and engage in mindfulness or nature walks


Wrote by: Gwendolen Anderson

Mental Health Counseling Intern


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