BRAIN HEALTH | 8.12.2019 | BY SHILO ZELLER, BSc.
“Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway.” - Cheryl Strayed
Our brains are wired to warn us of danger by setting off a cascade of physiological responses to make us fearful of potentially dangerous situations. While this is sometimes well placed to stop us from taking unnecessary risks, it can also turn into anxiety and the development of phobias. Typically, most people try to avoid the thing that scares them. However, science shows that avoiding the object that is causing fear actually increases the fear of the object.
To combat these feelings of fear, specialists have long been using exposure therapy. What is this exactly? Exposure therapy is slowly introducing a fear source to a person more and more until the brain associates the object as the cause of fear. In particular, exposure therapy allows the mind to become more accustomed to the fearful stimulant. This decreases the natural release of hormones associated with fear and stress, and also increases the individual’s confidence in being able to deal with adverse situations.
Getting over a fear, or being able to cope with it, is something that takes time and patience. After all, the brain is trying to rewire itself after years of aversion. Next time you find yourself trying to avoid the thing that gives you fear, consider facing it head on!