The science of fear

Carolyne Geng, Staff Writer

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    Fear is a curious survival instinct. Since the dawn of humankind, fear has been a necessary way for people to escape danger and survive in a harsh world, whether it be a den of lions in a jungle, a venomous snake from Australia, or even a big deadline for school.

    This emotion is produced when a person faces a threat, either physical or psychological. As the threat is processed, the brain releases hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine in order to battle or flee the situation, otherwise known as the famous and powerful “fight or flight” response.

    “I’m pretty scared of spiders, and I remember when I was trick or treating on Halloween this year, I got jump scared by a moving spider decoration. I jumped back in sheer terror because of that,” said Rishi Singh (‘20).

    In modern times however, more fear is creeping up on people as school, work, or personal lives get increasingly confusing, and in some of these circumstances, it can be paralyzing. This type of fear is categorized as anxiety, and it shows the most in teens (20% of teens suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, the most common in America).

    “One of my biggest fears is failure. I remember in the first, hard month of junior year, one day, I went to bed and had thoughts racing around in my head, about my future and what was in store for me. I felt like I lost my control to that fear,” said Anonymous.

    Thankfully, fear and stress do not have to have a negative impact. Studies and personal experiences show that fear can cause excitement and motivation when it is in a safe environment.

    As Dr. F. Emelia Sam, MD, explains about the benefits of fear, “In [certain] scenarios, fear often points us to  areas we need to investigate more closely. Though our instinct may be to flee, this type of fear is much-needed guidance for us.

    Also available is fear conditioning, a type of therapy that involves a subject being exposed to a fear stimulus repeatedly until the subject is no longer afraid of it. However, it may seem like a terrifying experience, and its effectiveness is questionable.

    “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Exposure therapy could cause you to be emotionally triggered by the experience or even give you PTSD,” said Sophia Choi (‘21).

   To date, fear continues to be an emotion that has both useful and unpleasant ideas surrounding it. It is something that has been a survival tactic and adrenaline high used by people for generations. Still, it is something of a mystery to the world and will remain so for a long time.

Does this innocent photo of boba make your skin crawl? For thousands of people, trypophobia is a perceived fear of clustered holes or bubbles, associated with bugs and disease. Though it is not recognized as an official phobia by psychologists, it is a phenomenon that highlights how fear is a blurry emotion to categorize scientifically.

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The science of fear