The pandemic of 2020 has caused many people to live in a constant state of fear. While fear is an indispensable survival mechanism that signals the perception of danger, living with chronic fear can have detrimental effects on your overall health. In this piece, we’ll try to understand what fear is and its long-term impacts on mental health.
What Is Fear and How Does It Work?
Fear is a powerful emotional and physiological reaction that is triggered by a perceived threat of danger. Fear is designed to help us survive life and death danger. The greater the danger, the greater the fear.When we are afraid our body moves into a “fight or flight” reaction. Our senses become heightened and our body prepares for action.
Generally, when our body senses danger, it sends signals to the brain, which in turn releases hormones that slow down functions such as digestion that are not needed for survival. Our senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell become heightened. We may also experience increased pulse rate, fast breathing patterns, and sometimes even sweating. Fear gives us the power and courage to charge or fight back when faced with a life-threatening situation. However, chronic fear might have a vast array of negative impacts on your brain.
How Does Chronic Fear Impacts Your Brain Health?
As mentioned earlier, persistent fear can take a toll on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. However, since the brain controls every part of the body, it is usually the first casualty of chronic fear.
- Memory: Chronic fear can impair the storage of long-term memories and lead to the damage of some parts of the brain, including the hippocampus. Constant fear can short-circuit the response paths in your mind, thereby making it more difficult to regulate fear and making you feel afraid most of the time.
- Mental Health: Having long-term fear can also cause the deterioration of brain cells leading to clinical depression, fatigue, and PTSD. If unchecked, fear can ultimately cause wear and tear of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This can, in turn, lead to immense fatigue and the breakdown of body systems that are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. Persistent fear can cause headaches to become migraines, and nervousness to become panic attacks.
- Interruption of Brain Processes: In some cases, fear can tamper with brain processes responsible for regulating non-verbal cues, emotions, and how we usually react to the information presented to us. This can affect our decision-making and result in intense emotions and impulsive reactions. It may also challenge our ability to concentrate and result in inappropriate speech or behaviors. Persistent fear can change how we act and behave toward those in our surroundings.
Get Help When Needed
The pandemic has caused many people to live in fear. Over time, this can take a toll on your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger issues, substance abuse, or other mental health issues because of the pandemic, seek help and support. Reach out to family and friends for support and seek professional help when needed.
New Dimensions Can Help
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.