How Fear Impacts Your Health

We all know that feeling you get when you hear a strange sound in the middle of the night: your heart races, your eyes dilate, your entire body tenses.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Whether the sound turns out to be an intruder or just your dog moving around in the other room, what you are experiencing is fear. We know it affects the mind, but in addition, fear impacts your health in some surprising ways.

1. Inability to Relax

Thinking back to that hypothetical noise you heard in the introduction, remember how you usually feel once the sound stops. You rarely feel rested or comfortable — even if you are relieved to find that the sound was just your pet, you will most likely still be awake for a while. Once the body experiences the fear response, it is slow to relax. It is preparing itself for the next sound or the next time it needs to get ready to fight or flee, which makes it very difficult for you to settle afterward. This only gets worse when the fear sensation is very strong or continues for a very long time.

2. Anxiety and Panic

Anxiety is often situation-based, and is, in simple terms, often a fear of the body’s reaction to fear. If a person feels fear to complete its work of custom web design when the deadline is over or when giving a speech in front of their oral communications class, for instance, they may in future associate such situations with fear, and avoid giving speeches as often as possible. This can lead to anxiety (sweaty palms, a racing heart, or nausea) or even an anxiety disorder, which can then manifest itself as panic attacks when one is in a situation that reminds them of the one that prompted their fear.

3. Weakens Immune System

The body’s fear response includes an upsurge of adrenaline and cortisone. Long-time exposure to these chemicals and other related hormones can take a toll on the immune system, making it weaker and less able to fight off infections, viruses, or other illnesses. While fear does not directly cause you to get sick (in most cases), prolonged fear does not put the body in the best position to defend itself from the germs that would like to invade it.

4. Sharpens Survival Instincts

When one is afraid, their body carries out what is known as the fight or flight response. This is a primitive instinct handed down to us from our ancestors, who often had to decide whether to fight off a predator was coming for them or run the other way. When we get scared, our heart races and all of the blood moves from our extremities to the core of our body, so that the most vital functions can continue to be carried out as we run or fight for our lives. For some people, the sensations this causes can be just as scary as the situation itself.

5. Depression

Being scared for an extended period can lead to not only anxiety but also depression, near-constant feelings of sadness, moodiness, and fatigue. When caused by fear, depression occurs most often in people who feel these sensations on a daily basis and feel they cannot do anything about it, such as someone who has a phobia of elevators but must take an elevator to their office every day.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Ivan Kruk / Shutterstock

    Dealing with the Immense Uncertainty of the World

    by Leo Babauta
    ways to relieve stress and anxiety

    Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety [31 Helpful Tips]

    by Luke

    Nurturing a Healthy Relationship with Fear As We Negotiate Life During COVID-19

    by Alexandra Kennedy
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.