Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I wonder why. Fear is normal, fear is helpful, fear can actually help save our lives! But what if it takes over? What happens if we feel we can’t control it?
The Fear of Fear
Fear is something we all feel at different times and for different reasons. Fear can protect us because it helps us learn to avoid dangerous situations.
But sometimes, we may become afraid of the feelings of fear. Sometimes, we may become afraid that our fear will get out of control and the feelings will never go away.
We become afraid of feeling fear; we develop a fear of fear. This fear of fear is a major aspect of anxiety. Not only do we try to avoid the fearful situation that has started these feelings in the first place, but the feeling of fear also becomes something we want and try to avoid. In fact, this is really the basis of anxiety and panic attacks – the fear of fear.
What is a panic attack? A clinical explanation is: an intense fear that results in a surge of adrenaline in our bodies. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland that is normal, safe, and can even be helpful.
I’ve coined the term circle of fear to refer to what happens during anxiety and panic attacks. It describes the situation where be become uncomfortable with our feelings of anxiety and decide that these feelings must be an “abnormal or unnatural” reaction to the situation at hand. We believe others, given the same situation, would not experience anxiety, which, in turn, helps our anxiety to mount.
It is our interpretation of our anxious feelings that may cause our anxiety to increase. If we think these feelings are justified, we are likely to ignore them and let them fade by themselves. If, however, we do not believe we should be having these feelings, they may grow in intensity and feel as if they are taking over.
Remember, anxiety is a perfectly normal and natural feeling to have. We all get anxious about different things. When we fear those anxious feelings and convince ourselves they are unwarranted, we have a pretty good chance of increasing the very anxiety we’re trying to stop.
To read my complete article and learn more about anxiety and panic, please go to my page on the Psychology Today website which can be found at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-without-anxiety/201108/fear-or-not-fear-you-re-in-control