Suppress fear reactions

An anxiety reaction can be very unpleasant: palpitations, a feeling of shortness of breath, dizziness. How does a fear response arise and can it be suppressed? In certain cases it is possible to suppress fear reactions, but only when this appears necessary.

What is a fear response?

The fear response is the reaction or reactions to fear. Anxiety is a feeling, a physiological state. The heart rate is increased, blood pressure increases, chest pain, dry mouth, feeling dizzy or palpitations may occur. Fear is in fact a survival mechanism: through fear we avoid dangerous situations. For example, man should feel fear when he or she stands on the edge of a high precipice. By feeling fear, we will not walk over this edge. Anxiety can be developed or reduced through a learning process. A simple example: all Dutch people are familiar with fairy tales and the Efteling. Children are not afraid of the moving dolls. This is because we teach our children from an early age that there is no danger behind the moving dolls. In the TV program “Greetings Back”, an indigenous tribe from Africa was exposed to the Efteling figures. There was great fear and panic among these tribal people. They were not familiar with these kinds of things and their fear is very normal. If they were exposed to this several times, the fear response would decrease because they would experience that nothing threatening was happening. Fear is regulated in the almond-shaped nucleus of neurons in the brain. By switching off this nucleus in a test on rats, the rats no longer experienced fear.

Testosterone reduces anxiety

The hormone testosterone ensures that anxiety responses decrease. Test subjects who were administered this hormone felt fewer feelings of anxiety. Humans produce testosterone themselves: men approximately 7 mg per day, women approximately 1.5 mg per day. The fact that men have much more testosterone in their bodies also explains why men are often tougher and less likely to be anxious than women. Women with extra progesterone experience feelings of anxiety more often. They also respond more strongly to stimuli, such as seeing an angry face.

Suppress anxiety with medication or alcohol

Certain medications suppress anxiety responses. They are administered for migraines, heart problems, depression, but also for excessive stress or anxiety reactions. The beta blocker propranolol is a well-known example of this. Valium also suppresses anxiety and reduces muscle tension. Valium works well in stressful situations. In case of inner unrest or stressful situations, you can buy valerian at the drugstore: these are tablets that have a calming effect and promote sleep. Alcohol also has an anxiety-suppressing effect, although to a lesser extent than medicines. This explains why people with a big drink are so fearless. Anti-anxiety medications should not be confused with medications that make you drowsy or sleepy. Although sedation also reduces anxiety, the effect is not entirely the same.

Late reaction to fear

Fear actions run through the almond-shaped core of neurons in the brain. However, these also run via the cerebral cortex. However, the latter reacts much slower than the core. Anyone who suddenly sees a large, dangerous spider will quickly recoil. However, half a second later it is clear that it was a fake spin. The fear subsides. What happens is the following: the spider is observed. Perception takes place via the core and via the cerebral cortex. However, the core is faster and registers danger. People move backwards. The cerebral cortex, which works a little slower because it takes a detour, also registers the danger, but now also sees that it is not a real danger. The cerebral cortex inhibits fear again.

Fear remains present in the brain

Fear that has been overcome is suppressed in the brain but still present. A suppressed fear can surface again quite quickly and cause a fear response. The brain continuously stores information that seems important. Fear is a survival mechanism and therefore an important fact that the brain will retain throughout life. Bad experiences can be suppressed, but they can resurface in certain situations. Someone who suffers from this a lot can sometimes only suppress it with medication.

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