What is Fear? Causes, Symptom, Treatment

Fear is an instinctive, natural, and primitive emotional response. It alerts us and makes us cautious about the potential danger and the threat of harm, whether the threat is physical, imaginary, emotional, or psychological. Usually fear has negative connotations attached to it. However, it plays a significant role in keeping us safe. Today, we’ll discuss what is fear; what causes fear, symptoms, and treatment of fear. 

Feelings & Reactions of Fear 

After discussing what is fear; it’s time to discuss feelings and reactions to being fearful. The three elements can differentiate your feelings of fear. Like intensity and severity of scariness, timing whether it’s immediate or pending, and how you’re managing it. However, fear comprises of two main reactions; and they’re as follows; 

Emotional Response 

The emotional response of fear in our body is highly personal because it causes some chemical reactions in our brain. It’s the same as when you’re feeling excited and joyful, and the fearful situation can be a fun activity under certain circumstances like watching a horror movie. 

Some people want an adrenaline experience by putting themselves into thrilling situations like sports or watching a scary movie. We can say that physical reactions may be the same, but the emotional reactions of the fearful circumstances could be positive or negative depending on the person. 

Biochemical Response 

As we know that fear is a survival instinctive natural emotional mechanism in our body. When you’re going through a dreadful situation, then your body would react in a certain way. However, some of the common physical reactions are high adrenaline running through your veins, high heart rate, and sweating in order to alert us. 

Flight or fright response is another name for physical reactions, where your body gets ready to handle the situation like running away, shouting, facing it, or something else. It’s an evolutionary automated reaction that plays a significant role in our survival. 

What Causes Fear 

The causes and the triggering points of the fear could be real, imaginary, emotional, psychological, or physical. Some of the main causes of fear are as follows; 

  • The idea of death and dying 
  • Spider, wall-lizard, snake, or any other animal or insect
  • The feeling of rejection at the social networking event 
  • Flying and height 
  • Loss of light and darkness 
  • Something unknown 
  • Environmental danger 
  • Imaginary things 
  • Upcoming future events 

Disorder & Mood 

If fearful feelings persist over a period of time, then you would feel sad and worried all the time without recognizing why. If you don’t know the triggering points, then you won’t be able to remove its cause or the actual threat. 

That’s why stress and anxiety are persistent and common experiences among many people. We can call it to disorder when it prevents you from performing daily tasks, intense, persistent, or recurring. 

Recognizing & Symptoms of Fear 

As we know that everyone reacts differently towards a fearful situation, and symptoms could be emotional, psychological, or physical. Some of the main symptoms are;

  • Upset stomach 
  • Shivering and trembling 
  • Sweating 
  • Short breaths 
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Nausea 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Chill & coldness 
  • Pain in the chest 
  • The feeling of pending death 
  • Feeling that everything is out of control 
  • Sad and upset 

Facial Expression 

Your facial expressions in a fearful situation are feeling surprised and baffled, horizontal and straight eyebrows, and raised and curved when surprised. The white portion of the eyes (sclera) is more exposed and the upper eyelid is raised higher. Finally, your lips have tension and are more stretched. 

Vocal Expression 

You have a strained tone and higher pitch voice while going through the vocal expression. 


Your physical posture in a fearful situation could be moving, running away, or freezing. 

Function of Fear 

The goal and function of the fear are to decrease the threat based on your past learned experience of going through the harmful situation. It makes our body do many extraordinary things that we won’t think of doing under normal circumstances. 

Our most immediate response toward threat is to be attentive and deal with it. It makes us take steps without thinking and that’s how we’re able to save lives. Like jumping out of the moving car, etc 

Fear in Others 

It’s a sympathetic, respectful, and compassionate way of reassuring someone of the things that one is fearful and we aren’t. Here you don’t have to feel the fear of the other person in order to comprehend his state of mind; you can help him/her to deal with it without being fearful. 

Types of Fear 

Some of the main types of fear that results from anxiety and stress disorder are as follows; 

  • Social anxiety disorder 
  • Specific phobia 
  • Separation anxiety disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Panic disorder 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder 
  • Agoraphobia 


When you face a certain situation repetitively, then it makes you familiar and lowers your response of fear. It’s a very good technique of treating phobia you gradually decrease the fear level by getting yourself familiar with it. Some of the other techniques are as follows; 


It’s a very successful technique of making yourself exposed to a certain situation. It follows the idea that phobia of any type is basically a learned behavior and you have to unlearn it. With the flooding technique, you can do this by exposing yourself to the fearful objects, places, and things to a great quantity over time in a controlled and safe environment until the fear goes away. For instance, you’re fearful of swimming, and with the flooding technique, you get into the water and familiar with it. 

The goal of the flooding technique is to face your fears by confronting them that have caused much stress and anxiety in you. It creates positive energy and reinforcement in you that you don’t have to worry and pass the fear. However, it’s better if you apply the flooding technique with the help of a professional. 

Systematic Desensitization 

Systematic desensitization means that you gradually expose yourself step by step. For instance, you’re fearful of dogs, and your therapist would talk about dogs in the first session. Next, he would show you the pictures of dogs, then toy dogs, and finally he’ll help you to play with the real dog. It comprises of learning and implementing new techniques to deal with fearful responses. 

Conclusion: What is fear? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is fear; its types, what causes fear, symptoms, treatment, and functions; we’ve realized that fear is primal instinctive emotion that helps us to survive. There are various types of fears and they require different treatment. If it persists over time and causes anxiety and stress, then you should consult with a professional.