Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat that causes animals to move quickly away from the location of the perceived threat, and sometimes hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible. Somepsychologists such as John B. Watson, Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that there is only a small set of basic or innate emotions and that fear is one of them. This hypothesized set includes such emotions as joy, sadness, and anger. Fear should be distinguished from the emotion anxiety, which typically occurs without any certain or immediate external threat.
Fear is frequently related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. It is worth noting that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening. All people have an instinctual response to potential danger, which is in fact important to the survival of all species. The reactions elicited from fear are seen through advantages in evolution.
According to surveys, some of the most common fears are of ghosts, the existence of evil powers, cockroaches, spiders, snakes, heights, water, enclosed spaces, tunnels,bridges, needles, social rejection, failure, examinations and public speaking. A person may also be apprehensive and having second thoughts about committing suicide. In an innovative test of what people fear the most, Bill Tancer analysed the most frequent online search queries that involved the phrase, “fear of…”. This follows the assumption that people tend to seek information on the issues that concern them the most. His top ten list of fears consisted of flying, heights, clowns, intimacy, death,rejection, people, snakes, failure, and driving.
Though most arachnids are harmless, a person with arachnophobia may still panic or feel uneasy around one. Sometimes, even an object resembling a spider can trigger a panic attack in an arachnophobia individual. The above cartoon is a depiction of the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet“, in which the title character is “frightened away” by a spider.
One of the most common fears is the fear of public speaking. People may be comfortable speaking inside a room but when it becomes public speaking, fear enters in the form of suspicion that whether the words uttered are correct or incorrect because there are many to judge it. Another common fear can be of pain, or of someone damaging a person. Fear of pain in a plausible situation brings flinching, or cringing.
- ^Öhman, A. (2000). Fear and anxiety: Evolutionary, cognitive, and clinical perspectives. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.). Handbook of emotions. (pp.573–593). New York: The Guilford Press.
- ^Olsson, A., & Phelps, A.O. (2007). Social learning of fear. Nature Neuroscience, 10, 1095-1102.
- ^Tancer, B. (2008). Click: What millions of people are doing online and why it matters. New York: Hyperion.
We provide fear therapy in Birmingham from our Edgbaston studio. Call us for a free, confidential consultation on 07967 301463 or email Jan@edgbastonhypnotherapy.com