Long Term Effects
A persistent lack of escape routes from danger lead to the insistent fear signals of anxiety, which raise heart rate and blood pressure over time. Such conditions are believed to lead to heart palpitations, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches. Escalating fear signals trigger panic attacks, which have indications similar to the symptoms of heart attacks. Anxiety over the years has been linked to health issues, including arthritis, migraines, allergies, stomach ulcers and thyroid disease.
Inherited, Acquired & The Unknown
The amygdala triggers fear signals, which drive you to escape from danger. It responds to three types of events. The first inherited set of circuits fire on identifying historically harmful events. The second group of neurons develop LTP circuits, which learn to fire on identifying events, which accompanied painful experiences. The last group of circuits trigger fear, when the system is unable to identify the impact of an event.
Over millions of years, nature has assembled in the amygdala a memory for harmful events. On recognizing signals of such events, the amygdala instinctively responds by triggering fear. So, most people have an inherited fear of falling, of being suffocated in enclosed spaces, of drowning in water and of being attacked by rats, cockroaches, or snakes. Even stage fright and a fear of public speaking originate from an instinctive fear of becoming a focus of attention of predators. The fear responses of the amygdala for such events are often accompanied by the startle response.
Over a lifetime, the amygdala builds an additional sensitivity to pain experiences. Pain may have been caused by physical injury, painful confrontations, loss of loved ones, loss of social status, or through social rejection. Mirror neurons also trigger pain within us, on seeing the painful experiences of others. Whenever such pain has been experienced, the amygdala stores memories of the related sensory signals. Fear can be triggered by the fleeting image of an angry face. People suffer fears of failing, of being ridiculed, of the loss of loved ones. If a person suffered trauma, when left alone as a child, she may fear loneliness.
Without the actual experience of such events, people fear death, nuclear wars, terrorism, or even threatened changes in their work environments. The inability to identify the significance of an event also triggers fear. Archy de Berker reports on the role of uncertainty in triggering fear. He tracked stress levels in subjects by measuring changes in pupil diameter, directly linked to the release of the stresss hormone noradrenaline in the brain. He discovered that pain and uncertainty have roughly equal roles to play in stress.
Subjects felt less fear when they knew that they were going to suffer pain than when they did do not know whether they would escape the pain experience. When fear envelops you for a reason you are unable to fathom, it is useful to list the issues, which bother you. You will find that by locating the cause of such fear and facing up to it will free you from the emotion. Even accepting uncertainty as an inevitable facet of your environment will also reduce your fear.
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