Thursday, May 20, 2010

Symptoms Of Fear

While this is not an exhaustive list of what you may see or experience with the emotion of fear, it includes many symptoms. Fear of course shows up in different ways for different people based upon their own life experiences and the current stimuli they are facing. Some people may be more aggressive and others may be paralyzed from the fear.

For me, fear often paralyzes and immobilizes me. In fact at one time, I was completely paralyzed by fear. The condition of course is termed a "conversion disorder" or hysterical paralysis. When I get very stressed and the fears get high, one of the things I quickly notice is that my legs become difficult to move and feel as if I am dragging around lead weights.

Fear is part of the sympathetic nervous system which plays a major role in the fight or flight response. Hopefully after the fear has passed, our bodies return to a more restful and relaxed state through the parasympathetic nervous system.

Please feel free to leave a comment with other signs of fear that I may have missed and I will edit this post to include them.

Physical Signs Of Fear
- Wide Eyes
- Raised Eyebrows
- Flared Nostrils
- Clenched Mouth
- Larger personal space
- Slouching or hunching to minimize their exposure
- Taller or squared shoulders as in an aggressive response
- Feet may be pointed to locate a way out of the situation
- Crossed arms and hands
- Drumming of fingers
- Fidgeting
- Rapid Breathing
- Shaking or tapping legs
- Breathing more rapid and shallow
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increase in pulse rate
- Dilated Pupils
- Dry Mouth
- Body hair standing on end
- Tense and energized muscles
- Increased perspiration
- Digestive and Immune systems slow down
- Trembling and shaking
- Peristalsis reduced
- Increased glycogen to glucose conversion
- Norepinephrine and epinephrine secreted
- Sweaty Palms
- Nervous Ticks
- Increase in thoughts and Mind Racing
- Screaming, yelling or inability to do these things
- Immobility or paralysis
- Hives or skin rashes, skin conditions

I lived in fear all my life that if I spoke about these things, someone would come after me. I still deal with the fear, but I am coming to a point in my life where I will not be silenced any longer. 
Hope And Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly

*For more articles, check out the Mind Body Thoughts Blog


  1. Writing an essay this helps a lot. Thank you!

    1. I am glad that it helps. Hope your essay comes out well and please feel free to share it with me if you wish to do so.

    2. Being bullied, left and well in another buly situation with little rum to leave again! memory especially around eating time as feel spiked, could this befear?
      Omm j

  2. I'm doing a speech in class on fear and this helped a lot. Thank you so much! :)

    1. Thank you for the feedback and I am glad to hear it helped. Hope you get an excellent grade on your speech.

  3. You listed "nervous ticks" but I get twitches. My finger will move a considerable distance once in a while and while not slowly, not as fast as an eye blink. I also get "internal vertigo" or a feeling that inside my abdomen things are shuddering or turning. My vision will get "blurry" for a moment or two as if the muscles of my lens are shuddering. It seems to me that something takes over my motor control in specific spot like a second intelligence that is trying to communicate something but lacks fine motor skills.

    1. While I won't try to diagnose anything you have, twitches are the same thing as nervous ticks in my view. Each of us reacts differently to events and circumstances we have been through in our life. It is an intelligence within us that is trying to communicate with us. The only way to know what it is trying to say is by listening and staying open. It is something you will feel and sense through the body, and at the appropriate time, it will become part of your consciousness. The key is to allow it to unfold and watch for it - feeling every part of it (even the uncertainty and not knowing parts).

  4. I was wondering what a person does when they are afraid for someone else. I am writing a story and my character is terrified that the girl he loves is going to die. Is there anything particular people do for this very specific fear? Thank you. :)

    1. Although I'm certain you finished your book, I thought this may be useful to someone else.

      I think that is something very subjective to the individual. Each person has a different set of values dictated by personal experience, religious inclinations, family upbringing, moral clarity/unclarity. Personal experiences that could color reactions would be any kind of abuse they experienced, or a past negative outcome written fear was previously present.

      For instance, has this character lost someone in their life before? If they knew someone very close whom previously died of an illness or mortal wound, that could even make them more or less fearful of someone they lucre dying. I have had multiple ppl very close to me die, though personal i never experienced fear over it, I also come from a string Biblical faith, sho if they were definitely believers, I have zero fear about them dying, in fact, it isn't negative at all, other than the temporal experience. If on the other hand, I am unsure of the state of their soul, it grieves me, and I would likely give them the gospel, if at all possible, if they rejected it, I would indeed be very upset, but it wouldn't drive me to anything other than deep sorrow.

      Again religion can and do deeply inform one's reactions to death. If this character is areilious, or 'atheist', they would have no comfort or sorrow either way in the same way a believer would, and so they would likely be a lot more or a lot less effected, though, in my experience, with atheist that I knew, they usually end up very angry. Also, if they are say, Hindu or Budhist, debit anyway, they would likely be ambivelant, because that person will be reincarnated, and where they end up after reincarnation is dependent on how they lived this life that is coming to an end now, they would of course be sad that person is leaving, but they are, on the whole, not going to be worried or upset the way a Believer would be about the state of their soul, and would likely be far less angry or fearful than an atheist because they have some certainty in their mind or reincarnation at least.

      Something else to consider, does this person have disorder that could effect their reactions? Such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

      Or an event that may have caused a fear of death?

      A person who fears death would likely have recurring nightmares about it, even if they do not remember them.

      Fear of the death of lived one's can cause us to do both very amazing, very stupid, or very morally negative behavior.


    2. Continued....

      I actually think the movie 'Dancer in the Dark', as illogical as some things in it are at times, and as depressing as that movie is, shows how ppl act in the face of fear, in very extreme forms, it is not about fear of death, almost worse, fear of a child losing a physical ability, that is very hard for parents to cope with. It often splits apart marriages and families. When someone we care about deeply is hurt, in some way detrimental, in our eyes, we can act very stupidly.

      There is honestly a lot to explore with this idea.

      I have wrote several stories and unpublished books about the aftermath of the death of a spouse or family member, and extreme reactions of grief, such as cutting off human communication, loss of appetite, loss of drive and motivation, a desire to die yourself, etc, etc.

      Again, in writing, these reactions much line up with the current understanding and pre-established facts about the character or else their reactions will ring patently false. There are numerous books and movies where characters have disingenuous responses which end up destroying the story.

      However, apathy is also a legitimate reaction to someone dying, even when you truly love that person. If they have a terminal illness, the person closest to them, for instance, could have some vety calloused responses, or at least seemingly calloused to others.

      For instance, if my husband died, at least, most times, I likely would show veryb little emotion, even though i deeply love him, but this largely head to do with my abuses from my past, showing feeling or emotion to others, could at times be detrimental to me, could result in verbal or physical lashing out from another party.

      Sho, again, their reactions MUST be informed by their past, but it is something that should be established throughout your book, whether it is on the front end or backend. In a mystery, those details would likely be given much later in the story, but in most dramas, there are many events and details leading up to a death in the story that would give us insight into the character.

      I hope this helps someone.

      God Bless ~Amy

  5. I was wondering if there are any symptoms people have when they fear for a loved ones life. I am writing a story right now and the character is terrified that the girl he loves will die. If you can help me out that would be great, thank you very much! :)

  6. I was wondering what a person does when they are afraid for someone else. I am writing a story and my character is terrified that the girl he loves is going to die. Is there anything particular people do for this very specific fear? Thank you. :)

  7. Thank you for this, it really helps me describe my character's fear :)

  8. Thank you so much! This really helped me express my character's fear

  9. Other fear reactions are: "brain fog", rolling of eyes that makes one lose sight for an instant ("blackout"), furring of eyebrows, shrinking of penis, jutting of jaw while exposing lower teeth, a loss of muscle tension in the face ("long face"), stiff gaze, general loss of muscle tension (for instance "weak at the knees") and hallucinations (auditory, olfactory, visual, etc).

  10. Hi, I just left a comment with some symptoms of fear. Your list is good and very helpful for me. I get many of them. I just recalled another sign which is the lowering of ones head (in submission), I don't know if you'll include it in your list.

  11. Hi. I just recalled another sign of fear, "fear grin", when you smile from fear.

  12. Here's another one: shitting onself. And this: cardiac arrest. And: scream. It seems that almost any muscle contraction or glandular/bodily secretion or whatnot can signify or be caused by fear. Interesting.

  13. What a great list! As a recovering (hopefully) schizophrenic I have recently realized the role of fear in developing and maintaining the delusions which partly constitute my disease. Some reactions that are not listed are related to the digestive system. Fear can shut down the digestive system. More acutely one can experience rumbling in the intestines, farting or even emptying of bowels (partly or wholly). These symptoms are very embarrassing.

  14. Does any one else experience tightness in your chest as though you cannot breathe also the jaw and teeth clenching.

  15. I experience tightness in my chest and jaw all of the time its very distressing. Am I alone? would be greatful if some one could identify with me. Thanks.

    1. The word "anxiety" is derived from german "angst" which is derived from the germanic/norse/indo-european (?) "anghr" which means "narrow, shrinking(, etc)". In Norse the word grew into a word for fjord; "angr", like in Hardanger. So saying "Hardanger-fjord" is like putting butter on fat, as we also say hereabouts.

    2. In Norwegian/Swedish we use the word "anger" for "regret", which might allude to it being an emotion of restriction.

  16. I experience clenching of jaw all the time, but have not experienced the light or heavy chest. However I do all the time experience that I hold my breath. I also might sweat and all sorts of other things. It is normal to react and it is normal to freeze or loosen up when being frightened. Hair rising on your body and all sorts of things. Boy, am I glad we have internet! Have a nice day!

  17. Thank you for sharing: These symptoms I witnessed in others while I was gathering groceries prior to a hurricane heading our way. The people in the stores were even displaying anger. This alarmed me with how much society will break down if people are not prepared for natural disasters.

    1. This reminds me of accounts from large shipwreckings, when the males muscle their way to the lifeboats, like for instance Titanic, I believe. Panic is fear.

  18. Notice how Adam Scott (of Dilbert fame) pinpoints the persuasion technique of inducing fear in people by relating repulsive images.

  19. Sometimes the fear manifests itself in the thought processes. One can for instance experience so called "cognitive dissonance" when confronted, making one's thoughts become elusive, that is; avoiding the subject which scares one. I guess it is a kind of "bias". The point is that it can be a spantaneous "involuntary" action(/thought). It is maybe related to general avoidance and I guess it can sometimes be called "taboo".

  20. Fear: laugh from fear, cough from fear, burping from fear. Getting tinnitus from fear. All is possible.

  21. I am terrified to confront my abuser (childhood sexual abuse). I can write down what I need to say to him, I can say it to my therapist with difficulty, but when I try to speak to my dad (he is dead, so confronting him is being done in my mind) I can't breathe and I cannot get the words out. The only thing I have said to him is "I hate you" and that was done in a whisper.






Blog Post And Images (c) 1/01/07 by Don Shetterly
  • Permission required in writing before any part of this blog is reprinted, reworded, transmitted or used in any format.
  • Feel free to share the blog post LINK and a brief summary.

  • “Amazon, the Amazon logo, MYHABIT, and the MYHABIT logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.”