Humans have the largest frontal lobes of any animal, a feature associated with higher-level functions like logic. Yet, there are many ways in which we are completely illogical. This is particularly true when it comes to our fears. Statistically speaking, many of the most common sources of human fear are unlikely to pose a true threat to our safety. Yet, most of us are unable to separate emotion when making rational decisions, a trait which can lead us into a downward spiral of anxiety. Sensibly, the fear of car accidents — which occur every sixteen minutes — should be greater than the fear of spiders, but our brains don’t always work that way.
Why Do We Fear the Things We Do?
The human brain is a primitive thing that has served us well for thousands of years, but as our world rapidly evolves, it struggles to keep up. For our ancestors, risks were often immediate and very real threats to their livelihood. In order to assess and avoid these risks, the brain had to make lightning fast decisions and the body was flooded with adrenaline, triggering a fight or flight response. Today, however, identifying a true threat to our wellbeing is not always as obvious as a saber-toothed tiger standing before us.
In our modern world, risks such as heart disease or distracted driving are far more likely to threaten our safety than a wild animal attack. Yet, our minds struggle to accurately assess these, as they do not loom obviously before us. Instead, we fear being exposed and vulnerable in front of others, reptiles or arachnids that appear dangerous, or becoming victims of a terrorist attack or other violent crime that is covered daily in our 24-hour news cycle.
Is Your Mind Playing Tricks on You?
If you find yourself worrying extensively about a certain topic, take a deep breath and confront your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Does this make sense rationally?” For example, if you have to speak in front of a large group of people and suffer a fear of public speaking, your mind will probably begin working in overdrive, convincing you of threats that don’t truly exist. Bring those anxious thoughts to the forefront of your mind and force yourself to address the issue — what is the worst that can happen? Even if you forget what you had planned to say for a few seconds, you’ll recover. There’s an overwhelming chance that what you’re fearful of will never happen. Though our bodies want us to be anxious so that we can avoid danger, this isn’t always in our best interest.
Confronting Your Irrational Fears
Fear can actually be used as a motivator. If you are worried about your finances, sign up for a money management course. Make a workout schedule and grocery list if you’re concerned about your health. Schedule an appointment with your doctor each year to ensure your body is working the way it’s supposed to. Having a plan will help stop your anxious thoughts in their tracks. In their place, you’ll have a practical list of actionable steps to take.
Psychiatric Help for Anxiety and Phobias
Of course, there are always cases where, despite our best efforts, fear, anxiety, and phobias are too overwhelming to handle on our own. For some, there may even be a chemical imbalance involved which can exacerbate these worries. In such instances, seeking the help of a medically trained professional is key. A psychiatrist can help you not only better understand the root of your fears, they can also provide the tools needed to overcome them, including prescription medication when needed. At Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge, our skilled psychiatric physicians are trained to help you navigate all manner of mental health concerns. Contact our office today to request an appointment.