Why do people fear their fears

Why fear is a meaningful thing

Shaky knees, sweaty hands, palpitations: when we're scared, it often doesn't feel good at all. Fear is a meaningful thing

Imagine if you weren't afraid of anything or anyone: you would go to the next math work completely relaxed, would not need to avoid the neighbour's sheepdog, would walk through the park in the dark and climb the highest cliffs. Sounds good right?

The truth is, although fear can feel mean, it's good that it is there. It is an old protective mechanism that saved our ancestors' lives. When faced with a beast of prey, it was certainly not those who bravely plunged into battle that would get away safely - but those who were afraid and ran away.

When fearful, the body switches to survival mode

Even today, the slack feeling in our stomach saves us from carelessness and danger. When threatened, the same program always runs in the body: Our senses notice a shadow, a strange noise, a smell and send these messages to a switching point in our brain. Only milliseconds later, this reports: Alarm!

This emergency call is triggered by the Amygdalawhich consists of two pea-sized structures deep in the brain. It is responsible for connecting a perception with a feeling and is responsible for the fact that we feel fear at all. Immediately she ensures that, among other things, a hormone called norepinephrine rushes through our veins

In a nutshell

hormone: As messenger substances, hormones are involved in many processes in the body. For example, they influence our mood or make our muscles grow. Hormones are produced in certain glands that release them into the blood and thus into the whole body.

phobia: The word phobia comes from the Greek phoboswhat fear or fear means. If someone has a phobia, they fear very specific situations or things. For example, he dreads being in a tight space or seeing a syringe.

This stuff puts us in survival mode. Our heart is now beating like a sledgehammer, we breathe faster, our muscles are better supplied with blood and begin to tremble with tension. The body is ready for attack or flight. In doing so, however, he neglects other tasks: Suddenly we can no longer think clearly, hunger or tiredness evaporate, sometimes we even lose control of our digestion and bladder. So it can happen that you literally piss your pants with fear ...

The information from the control center also reaches other brain regions that are activated a little more slowly: the cerebral cortex, for example. It is the center of logic and understanding, analyzes and evaluates the situation. If our fear is unfounded, for example because a shadow in the apartment is not a burglar at all, she orders: fright, let up!

Why are we also afraid of harmless things?

Fear drives us to perform at our best, fear ensures that we are vigilant - not bad at all for tests of courage and math tests. But if fear is such a great thing, why are we also afraid of harmless situations and things? Millions of Germans, for example, have one phobia from spiders. There is not a single dangerous species of spider in this country! Others are afraid of heights and can hardly stand on a ladder or hide in a thunderstorm.

Scientists suspect that we have such Fears inherited from our ancestors to have. For them poisonous animals, abysses or storms were still real dangers. But our upbringing and our experiences also influence what we dread. For example, if our parents are anxious drivers, the likelihood increases that we too will get the tremors on the highway at some point. And whoever has already had nasty treatment at the dentist's, is probably more afraid of the next examination than others.

Sometimes such fears are not only nonsensical, but also so persistent that they are considered a disease. Those affected suffer a lot and no longer dare to do everyday things. For example, some cannot stand going to places where there are many people. If they get into a crowd, they get violent attacks of anxiety: Panic attacks. Many boys and girls in Germany also struggle with such problems - every tenth child, experts estimate.

The good news is: Even bad fears can be overcome. If necessary, a therapist will help. He knows methods to trick the brain. It often even helps when patients do exactly what they fear. Someone scared to talk in front of a group? Then he has to give a lecture. People who panic when they get into an elevator or a plane do just that. Over and over again. You will find that it feels a little better every time. At some point, our brain records that the situation is harmless - and the fear disappears.