Understanding Fear: Questions to Ask Yourself

Understanding Fear: Questions to Ask Yourself Fear can be part of mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety, specific fears (phobias),  panic disorder, and posttraumatic-stress disorder. Fear is considered a basic human emotion, which provides helpful adaptive responses such as being able to protect one from danger. On the other hand, fear can also be maladaptive and lead to behaviors such as avoidance or withdrawal that can interfere with daily life activities and impact relationships.

Understanding the stress response can be helpful for making connections with the “fight or flight” response observed in the body. Our brains and bodies are on full alert when danger is perceived. This includes hormonal changes and physiological responses. Our brains and bodies may continue to respond to non-life-threatening situations such as upcoming work or school deadlines, meeting someone for a first date, going to the doctor, or being in an environment previously associated with a highly stressful or traumatic experience. We can feel afraid, based on how situations are interpreted.

Here are a series of questions to ask yourself to help understand your fear.

  • How much discomfort do you experience from fear? Is there anything that you are unable to do because of fear?
  • How often do you feel afraid?
  • Does fear match the facts of the situation?
  • How much avoidance is present?
  • Does fear impact important areas of your life such as your work/ school or relationships?
  • Are there benefits to the fear that is present? Could fear be useful?

If you are experiencing significant discomfort or find that there are things that you want to do, but are unable to do because of fear, then talking with a mental health specialist is recommended. Fear that becomes persistent can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, so it is important to take preventative measures. There are effective treatment options to work with excessive fears and irrational thoughts; with specialized approaches tailored for children through adults. A therapist will help assess the nature of fear to determine what interventions will be most helpful. Frequent or constant avoidance or withdrawal and significant impairment in important areas of your life are all signs that fear is taking control. If you are ready for a change, now is the time.

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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