Fear refers to a feeling of intense repugnance, revulsion or dislike of a condition, situation or substance that results into emotional disturbance or imbalance and negative behavioral response inhibited by an individual towards an undesirable condition or substance. It is a feeling of panic and anxiety that results from coming into contact with undesirable substances or exposure to undesirable and unwanted situations. According to Abbot (2006), fear usually alerts individuals to the presence of danger. Fear is usually caused by exposure to undesirable situations or substances. More often than not, fear results from the tendency of people to stay away from situations or conditions that pose high risks of injury and harm or tendency to circumvent hazardous substances. Although Smith (2008) asserts that fear is a normal and beneficial response to an individual, Baker (2011) argues that only a certain degree, limit or level of fear is normal and beneficial to an individual. Baker (2011) further asserts that excessive fear is detrimental and can lead to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Response to fear usually involves biochemical, physiological and emotional reactions. Cacioppo (2010) specifies that biochemical reactions in response as a result of fear are universal amongst living organisms and human beings whereas emotional reactions are usually specific and unique amongst individuals.
Physical Effects of Fear
The physical effects of fear usually result from biochemical and physical reactions that occur in the human body as an individual responds to perceived threats or dangers. As a result of fear, the body reacts by releasing hormones to various systems of the body in order to provide energy for fighting or fleeing away from the identified threat. The physical reactions include sweating, increased rate of heart beat, weakness in the body especially in the legs and arms amongst others. According to Cacioppo (2010), these physical reactions are collectively referred to as fight or flight responses. Fight or flight responses involve a series of biochemical and physical reactions that prepares the body to either battle with or run away from a perceived threat or danger. These biochemical and physical reactions are initiated automatically by the body and are very important for the survival of the organism or person.
According to Goldstein (2009), sweating is a natural response initiated by the body when an individual is faced with danger or threat. Sweating results from activation of the fight or flight systems of the body when an individual faced with a threat or danger. Upon activation of the fight or flight systems the body releases various catecholamine hormones such as adrenaline. This leads into increase in rate of heart beat and rate of blood in the body.Various systems of the body such as the nervous system, blood circulatory system and digestive system are also triggered and become more active. This results into increase in biochemical processes within these systems.As a consequence, a lot of energy is released in the body to enable the individual to either fight or flee away from the danger or threat.This increase of energy usually leads to overheating of the body. The excess heating of the body also results from violent muscular reactions that aim at generating energy for fight or flight responses.
In order to ensure that various cells or components of the body are not destroyed by the excess heat released from the energy, the body initiates sweating so as to cool down the body. Panksepp (2009) also asserts that sweating is very important and highly beneficial to the body because it helps in releasing excess heat energy that may destroy body cells. For example, an individual would require additional supply of oxygen in order to run away from a scene of danger. In order to effectively meet the extra demand of oxygen in the body, the digestive system increases metabolic processes and breaking down of stored fats and lipids to produce more energy. This results into release of extra heat energy in the body which is released from the body through sweating. According to Kahn and Doctor (2011), sweating is usually caused by release of adrenaline hormones into the blood circulatory system. When adrenaline hormones have been released into the body, the hormones cause increase in blood throughout the body. This results into increase in blood flow on the skin’s surface thereby opening more sweat pores.
Weakness in the Legs
In some cases, a person may feel weak and unable to move when faced with perceived danger. This is due to the fright response of the body which makes the body inactive temporarily. Weaknesses in the legs and arms usually occur due to constriction of blood vessels in the legs and arms.
Rapid Heart Rate
The normal rate of heart beat in a healthy individual ranges between sixty beats and one hundred and twenty beats per minute depending on the age, gender and size of body of the individual. However, this rate of heart beat is likely to increase rapidly when an individual is faced with perceived danger or threat. According to Cacioppo (2010), the increase in rate of heart beat of an individual faced with perceived danger usually results from automatic changes in the nervous system. When a person feels threatened or endangered, the sympathetic nervous system of his or her body is triggered and becomes activated. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to respond to the threat by releasing chemical compounds and hormones, especially adrenaline. This results into increased rate of heart beat as blood is used to transport or distribute these chemical compounds and hormones to various parts of the body. The increase in rate of heart beat is also caused by the urgent to redistribute body energy throughout the body. According to Panksepp (2009), the rapid heart rate is also caused by increased need of oxygen in the body, thus forcing the heart to pump more blood to various parts of the body. The oxygen is usually used for metabolic reactions that generate body energy needed for fight or flight responses during an exposure to threats or dangers.
It is worth noting that responses to fear as well as the physical effects of fear in an individual usually vary from one person to another. For example, one person may sweat profusely when he sees a snake whereas another person may exhibit mild sweating when he sees the same snake. Other physical effects of fear include headaches, difficulties in breathing and diarrhea.