What is fear?

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In medical terms, fear is a series of reaction that occurs in the brain in response to a stress stimulant. The reaction ends with chemicals being released causing a rise in heartbeat, faster breathing and energetic muscles. This body response is commonly referred to as fight or flight. Fear may be stimulated by internal as well as external stimulus. The brain is a profoundly sophisticated organ with over 100 billion nerves that form a complex network of communication. It is the beginning of everything we think sense or do. While some of the communications trigger conscious action and thought, others generate automatic responses. The response to fear is almost automatic because we do not trigger it consciously and we remain unaware of that is happening until it runs its course. Since brain cells are always triggering responses and transmitting information, there are numerous parts of the brain that are engaged in fear.

How Fear affects people

As a simple natural mechanism of signaling the body of looming danger, fear is an important part of ensuring our safety. However, living in constant fear can lead to incapacitation. Chronic fear results to weakening of the immune system and can cause damage to the cardiovascular system, lead to gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers. Fear can also lead to reduced fertility. In some cases, constant fear may damage formation of lasting memories and brain parts such as the hippocampus. Such damage makes it difficult to keep fear under control leaving someone experiencing anxiety throughout. The world through the eyes of such a person is a scary place as their memories reflect that. In addition, fear may interfere with brain processes that control emotions, reflect prior to acting, interpret non-verbal cues and other forms of information, and act morally. This has an effect on ability to think and make decisions making the person vulnerable to impulsive reactions and intense emotions. Chronic fear also causes clinical depression, fatigue, increases ageing and can lead to death.

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