HomeHealth articlesfearWhat Is Fear?

Fear - Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Verified dataVerified data

4 min read


Fear is an unpleasant emotion stimulated by the perception of danger or awareness of fear. For more details, read the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Published At January 4, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 17, 2023

What Is Fear?

Fear is a natural, unpleasant emotional response that alerts us against physical or psychological danger. Although fear can be from a real threat or imagined danger, it can also present in mental health disorders like anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The amygdala is part of the brain that reacts to danger and tries to overcome it. A fearful response produces a biochemical and emotional reaction.

1) Biochemical Reaction: This reaction is the mechanism to prepare our bodies for the perceived or presumed threat; it can also be termed as a fight or flight mechanism of the body where a body prepares to either deal with the danger or run away to be at a safer place. The biochemical reaction can be visualized as sweating, increased heart rate, tremors, dilated pupils, increased respiratory rate, and tensed muscles. Adrenaline and cortisol are the hormones responsible for fear-fight reactions; these hormones are regulated and secreted by the hypothalamus and adrenal cortex. Biochemical reactions of everybody to fear are similar with varying intensities, unlike emotional reactions.

2) Emotional Reaction: Emotional response varies depending on every individual, as every person can react differently to the same stimuli. To describe this, we can consider a roller coaster ride an adventurous experience to some, whereas, for others, it can be a deadly fearful moment; so we can state that the adrenaline rush is enjoyable to few, whereas others try to avoid such situations.

What Are the Symptoms of Fear?

A fearful person would present with both physical and emotional symptoms, and these symptoms or reactions to fear would differ from person to person; some of the most likely symptoms are listed below.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Chest pain.

  • Chills.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Nausea.

  • Rapid heartbeat.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Sweating.

  • Trembling.

  • Upset stomach.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Difficulty sleeping peacefully.

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Aggression.

  • Mood swings.

  • Feeling uncontrolled.

  • Having thought about death.

How Is Fear Diagnosed?

Fear, like other mental disorders, can be diagnosed and treated after reporting a detailed history. A patient must report to the psychiatrist if he is having repeated episodes of fear; a patient with repeated fear can also suffer panic attacks, which can be life-threatening; therefore, timely medical advice and attention are important.

On consulting, a psychiatrist would thoroughly understand the history and conduct a physical examination and lab tests to rule out any interlinked underlying medical disorder.

During the investigation, a psychiatrist might question the incidents, situations, and places that trigger anxiety.

The diagnosis can be made based on the information gathered, and further steps can be planned to prevent and combat the fear. Phobias are mostly correlated with fear and can be considered a differential diagnosis.

What Are Phobias?

A Phobia can be defined as a fear of fear; it is commonly seen in individuals who suffer from Lexan anxiety disorder. These people are often scared and think that some of the incidents would occur, which would be fearful, though it keeps them alert and anxious every time. Phobias often develop through repeated fearful experiences.

What Are the Causes of Fear?

Causes of fear differ from person to person, as some fear heights while others could fear a dark room. Fear in a broader spectrum can be termed as a perception of the event rather than an actual act, as people can fear closed spaces, heights, snakes, spiders, lizards, imagined events or objects, future events, etc. Fears are often developed over time and are mainly the result of traumatic experiences.

What Are the Types of Fear Disorders?

Various anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, some of which are listed below:

How Is Fear Treated?

The treatment of fear is mainly based on the theory of familiarizing the fearful object. A person is repeatedly exposed to similar situations so that he is familiar with them, gets resistance, and does not fear.

Various techniques used in the treatment of fear include:

  • Systematic presentation.

  • Flooding.

These techniques function with your body’s physiological and psychological responses to overcome fear.

Systematic Desensitization:

This therapy aims to gradually expose you to a series of similar situations that are fearful. The objective of the therapy is to familiarize an individual with fearful objects to reduce the intensity of anxiety. For example, in this method, if a person fears the dark during the first appointment, the therapist discusses the dark and the fearful situation, During the second appointment, pictures of the same are shown to the person, and then the person is taken into dark rooms or on dark roads during consecutive appointments till he gets used to being alone in the dark.


It is a very effective treatment method that helps to overcome fear as an individual is repeatedly exposed to multiple fearful situations or objects for a prolonged time in a safe and monitored environment until the fear is overcome.

This treatment modality believes fear is a learned phenomenon and can be overcome b

Though this is the most effective treatment method, it is advised to always carry out therapy under the guidance of a trained professional with the advice of a psychotherapist.

How Do I Overcome Fear?

To overcome fear, it is necessary to learn to cope with it and implement the following:

  • Healthy eating habits.

  • Regular exercising.

  • Meditations.

  • Seeking support and discussing concerns with your family and friends.

  • Practice mindfulness.

  • Replace fearful thoughts with positive ones.


Fear is an unpleasant emotion often correlated with a phobia; fear is often developed after certain trauma or can even be due to imaginary thoughts. A fearful person often presents sweaty, with an increased heart rate, and panicked. Fear is a natural, unpleasant emotional response that alerts us against physical and/or psychological danger. To treat a fearful person, it is important to make him acquainted with the fearful objects and situations to develop familiarize. Repeated episodes of anxiety and phobia should be reported to the psychiatrist, and further treatment should be undergone under the guidance of the professional.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Fear of Falling?

The fear of falling, also known as basophobia or propriophobia, is a common phobia characterized by a persistent and excessive fear of falling, regardless of height. It can arise from a previous traumatic experience or a near fall, or it can be a manifestation of a more general anxiety disorder. The fear of falling can impact daily activities and limit mobility, decreasing quality of life.


What Are the Ways to Reduce Fear of Flying?

The following are ways to overcome the fear of flying:
 - Education: Learn about how airplanes work and the safety measures in place.
 - Gradual Exposure: Gradually expose yourself to the fear by taking small flights and gradually building up to longer ones.
 - Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization before and during the flight.
 - Talk to a Therapist: A therapist can help you address the root cause of your fear and develop coping strategies.
 - Medication: In some cases, medication may help manage anxiety symptoms during a flight.


What Is the Fear of Failure?

The fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia, is a common fear involving an excessive and irrational fear of not being able to meet expectations, whether self-imposed or imposed by others. This fear can hold individuals back from pursuing their goals and cause stress, anxiety, and depression. Therefore, it is essential to challenge negative thought patterns, set realistic and achievable goals, and practice self-compassion to overcome the fear of failure.


How to Overcome Fear of Embarrassment?

Overcoming the fear of embarrassment:
 - Challenge negative thoughts.
 - Gradually exposed to social situations.
 - Practice mindfulness to stay present.
 - Seek support from trusted sources.
 - Be self-compassionate and treat kindly.
 - Recognize that everyone experiences embarrassment at times.


What Are the Fear of Elevators?

The fear of elevators is also known as elevophobia or claustrophobia. It is a phobia characterized by excessive anxiety and fear related to using elevators. This fear can arise from a traumatic experience.


What Is the Effect of Fear on the Body?

 - Activation of the "Fight or Flight" Response: Release of adrenaline and other stress hormones.
 - Physical Symptoms: Increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and difficulty breathing.
 - Changes in Brain Function: Fear can alter brain activity and impact decision-making and perception.
 - Immune System: Chronic fear can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to illness.
 - Mental Health: Fear can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
 - Long-term Effects: Prolonged exposure to fear can lead to physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease and PTSD.


What Are the Effects of Fear on the Brain?

Fear affects the brain in the following ways:
 - Activation of the Amygdala: Triggers a "fight or flight" response.
 - Release of Stress Hormones: Adrenaline and cortisol are released during fear.
 - Changes in Brain Activity: Fear can alter brain activity and decision-making.
 - Long-term Effects: Prolonged anxiety or fear can change brain structure and function.
 - Impairment of Memory and Learning: Fear can interfere with the formation of new memories and the ability to learn.
 - Mental Health: Fear can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. 


What Are the Effects of Fear on the Society?

Fear affects society, influencing attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. Leaders can manipulate fear to control and manage populations, leading to restrictions on personal freedoms in the name of security. Anxiety can also drive people to behave in specific ways to avoid perceived threats, shape social norms and cultural values, and create societal division and mistrust. As a result, fear can limit personal freedoms, fuel prejudice and discrimination, and impact mental and physical health. The effects of fear on society can be complex and long-lasting, making it essential to understand and manage fear responsibly and proactively.


How Can Fear Destroy the Life of a Person?

Fear can destroy a person's life, affecting their mental and physical health, relationships, and daily functioning. Fear can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, impacting a person's ability to lead a fulfilling life. Fear can also affect a person's physical health by causing physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing. In addition, it can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to illness. Fear can also affect a person's relationships by causing them to withdraw, avoid social interactions, and miss out on meaningful life experiences.


How Can Fear Control a person?

Fear can have a powerful impact on individuals and can control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior in various ways. The first and most basic way fear controls individuals is by triggering the "fight or flight" response. This response is a natural survival instinct that prepares the body to react to perceived danger. Fear also affects people's thoughts by influencing their attitudes, beliefs, and opinions, leading to increased anxiety, stress, and worry. Finally, fear can also control behavior by driving individuals to avoid perceived threats and limiting their ability to take risks and try new things.


What Are the Effects of Fear on Decision-Making?

Fear can have a significant impact on decision-making. On the one hand, fear can motivate individuals to take action and make decisions to protect themselves. On the other hand, fear can lead to indecision and a tendency to avoid making decisions. Fear can also cause individuals to rely on intuition and emotions rather than logic and reason, leading to poor or irrational decisions. In general, fear can interfere with the ability to think clearly and make rational decisions.


What Are the Effects of Fear on Memory?

Fear can impact memory in several ways. When experiencing fear, the brain releases stress hormones that can enhance the emotional memory of the event, making it more memorable and long-lasting. However, fear can also impair cognitive memory and make it more difficult to recall specific event details. Additionally, fear can impact the encoding and consolidation of memories, leading to distortions or gaps in the recall. The effects of fear on memory can vary depending on the individual and the situation. Still, it is essential to understand how fear can impact memory to manage its effects better.


What Are the Effects of Fear on the Mind?

Fear can significantly impact the mind, affecting thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Fear triggers the "fight or flight" response, leading to physiological changes such as increased heart rate and stress hormone release. It can also increase anxiety, stress, and worry, making it difficult to focus or relax. Fear can influence attitudes, beliefs, and opinions, leading to distorted thinking and negative self-talk. Additionally, fear can drive individuals to avoid perceived threats, limiting personal growth and opportunities. Understanxietyng how anxiety affects the mind can help individuals manage its impact and miadversets adverse effects.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Siva Anoop Yella
Dr. Siva Anoop Yella



Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Do you have a question on


Ask a doctor online

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy