Have random feelings of fear? Even when logically there is no big danger? And it’s an out of control thing you don’t quite understand?
Fear is of course normal if our wellbeing is being threatened. It’s also normal if we are trying something new, or doing something with a risk to it, like extreme sports.
But if you find yourself feeling fear over things that aren’t highly dangerous? Like being late, someone being upset with you, or just a sense something terrible will happen, for example? Then your fear is probably related to psychological issues you need to address.
Is your mind is always troubleshooting, and coming to the worst conclusions? Do other people tell you that you worries are totally illogic? Do you feel hopeless? Do you also have physical symptoms like a beating heart and sweatiness? Then it’s likely you have anxiety, which is driven by uncontrollable and fearful negative thoughts.
Did you experience an overwhelming situation, such as an accident, witnessing a crime, or living through war or a natural disaster? A traumatic experience can leave your brain in flight or fight mode. You’ll be constantly jumpy, grumpy, and anxious. Others might say ‘you’ve changed’. Your sleep can be disrupted, and you might develop addictions.
Does the above sound familiar, but you didn’t have a recent trauma? Just a childhood trauma, or a series of difficult childhood experiences? It’s now recognised that adults can have ongoing PTSD from childhood called ‘complex PTSD’.
Anxious attachment disorder
Is it only when you get in a relationship that you start to have feelings of fear? And feel anxious and upset, right when you should be feeling happy? Or panic if you don’t know where your partner is? Anxious attachment disorder means that as a child your primary caregiver was not reliable with love, affection, and safety. Your brain learned to connect anxiety and love.
Are you only afraid of a certain thing? An object, animal, situation, or place? Do you go out of your way to avoid this thing, and do you not just have feelings of fear, but terror?
Phobias are a kind of anxiety disorder where our anxiety focuses on one thing, such as social anxiety disorder, where we are terrified of too much connection.
Are you afraid of your own thoughts? Do you have obsessive thoughts about things like hurting someone, or doing sexual things? And then compulsively do things like pray, check to see your own reactions, or research extensively to prove you are okay? This can be a form of OCD, called ‘primarily obsessive’.
Are you terrified people or an organisation are out to get you? Are you often suspicious or afraid of others? Do you think non stop about people plotting against you? Paranoia means our mind is hooked into thinking others want to hurt us, no matter if there is no proof whatsoever and other people find us strange to think so.
When our mind is caught in cycles of fear it isn't possible to just 'decide' to stop. Negative thinking is deeply entrenched or even addictive. If our brain is also stuck in fight and flight mode then it is a chemical response that is very hard to control.
There are self help techniques that can help, like mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation.
But it's important to seek support. A therapist helps you challenge your thoughts, and talk therapies like CBT can teach your mind new ways of thinking that don't trigger your fear response.
Ready to stop being controlled by feelings of fear? Book a therapist now and start talking this week.