2.2 The fear response
A panic attack involves someone experiencing a set of body reactions which are associated with feeling fear, only often in the apparent absence of anything to be scared of.
This set of body reactions is termed ‘the fear reaction’. In the next video Professor Roger Baker describes how this fear response might be experienced if you were suddenly threatened by someone holding a knife.
Activity 5 The body’s response to fear
Watch the following video.
Transcript: Video 1 Professor Roger Baker discusses the fear response
Why might having a fear reaction be a good thing do you think?
The fear reaction prepares the human body to respond to danger – to fight or to run away. It is an important body response for human survival!
Now watch this second video – where Professor Roger Baker explains what happens whenthe fear response is accidentally triggered in a panic attack.
Transcript: Video 2 Professor Roger Baker explains what happens when the fear response is accidentally triggered
What is Professor Baker’s key message?
In this video Professor Roger Baker makes the point that the fear reaction has to be intense so that it works to get you out of danger. But he also says that the fear response is harmless even if it is very unpleasant to experience. It won’t actually kill you – it just feels like it might.
To drive home this point, have a go at the following activity.
Activity 6 Fear of fear
Pair the right answers with the statement.
Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.
so that it can save you in an emergency
but it is designed to save you (not kill you)
a fear of the fear response
a.The fear response feels really awful:
b.A key driver of panic attacks is:
c.The fear response is really strong:
- 1 = c
- 2 = a
- 3 = b
Because it is so scary to get the fear response out of the blue people get scared of feeling those physical feelings even though they are almost always actually harmless. And this fear of the fear response then means that people get sensitized to their own body reactions – which makes it actually more likely that a person may have another panic attack.