How do you tell fear from excitement?
Who is not afraid, does not live! Fear is part of our life and is important for our development. Everyone is afraid of something else: exams, illnesses, certain animals, being alone, crowds, embarrassment, etc. Fear is a natural and useful protective mechanism: It allows us to react quickly in dangerous situations. Usually, the tension will then ease as quickly as it was built up.
Fear turns into a disease when it lasts for an unusually long time, those affected can no longer control it and no objective cause can be identified by outsiders. Sometimes people are not even aware of their fear because they only pay attention to the physical symptoms. An anxiety disorder is therefore also hidden behind many psychosomatic complaints.
Fear triggers physically similar reactions to stress: Among other things, the hypothalamus controls cortisol formation, which regulates the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and protein. The adrenal gland produces more adrenaline and noradrenaline, which in turn accelerate the body's energy supply within seconds: the heart rate and blood pressure increase, the muscles are supplied with more blood, but the brain is more or less "switched off". This is why test anxiety can become the familiar "Black-outs" are coming.
Anxious people generally have high levels of adrenaline in their blood. The smallest cause is enough to trigger a fear reaction in them. The pulse rises, the blood drains from their faces, they are shaking and their knees are weak. Your breath becomes faster and you still have the feeling that you cannot breathe. Some people even get stomach pain when they are afraid, vomit, or develop diarrhea. Other physical symptoms of anxiety include dilated pupils, sweats, urination, headache, dizziness, and fainting.
Those affected do not have to be aware of their fears, but these sometimes result in massive physical discomfort. Among other things, they lead to:
- Digestive problems (gas, constipation, diarrhea)
- Sleep, eating and concentration disorders
- Heart problems from cardiac arrhythmias, possibly up to a heart attack
- Difficulty breathing including asthma
- increased susceptibility to infection
The difficulty for the doctor is to recognize fear as the cause of the patient's physical discomfort. Even if those affected are aware of their fears, they usually do not admit them openly (hidden "fears). The doctor can prescribe medication for some of the effects of the fear, but psychotherapy can only bring about permanent relief.
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