What Causes Fear?

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger which has strong roots in human evolution. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats, which in the ancestral world frequently resulted in life-or-death consequences.

In the modern world, individuals often fear situations in which the stakes are much lower, such as public speaking, but their bodies and brains may still treat the threat as lethal. This can trigger an extreme, although often unnecessary, fight-flight-or-freeze response. As a result, people may find themselves avoiding challenges that could benefit them in the long run or hanging back during social interactions.

When people today do face deadly or extreme danger, it can sometimes cause lingering trauma. Such trauma can trigger a fear response that is hard to quell, even when the risk has passed.

How to Move Past Fear

In the past, our human ancestors correctly feared immediate danger from threats volcano eruptions to hungry predators. Common fears today have more to do with the impression people make on others, as well as how other people's judgments affect their self-worth. This hyper-focus on image may only be exacerbated by the rise of the internet and social media culture.

Managing fears can be confusing when they don't necessarily correlate with a clear or obvious danger. If fear is overtaking an individual's life, seeking therapy can help. A qualified therapist can help a patient find ways to let go of fears, develop coping mechanisms, and look for positivity in fear-inducing situations. In cases of severe trauma, sexual or otherwise, therapy is likely the best option. But formal therapy isn't always necessary; in many cases, gradual exposure to the object of one's fear can be the best way to move past it.


Anxiety, Therapy, Trauma

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