There isn't a universally agreed-upon number of emotions, and the categorization of emotions is an ongoing area of research and discussion within psychology and neuroscience. The most influential role of emotions is to help us survive.
Fear is one of the natural emotions that arise during a perceived threat or danger. Acute fear is a crucial adaptive response that helps us survive immediate threats, however, chronic fear can contribute to long-term effects on our mental and physical well-being.
Fear activates our sympathetic nervous system, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response. This then cascades into stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to be created which increase our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and inflammation.
Over time, chronic fear can impact multiple systems:
Immune system: Weakens our immune system function, making individuals more susceptible to pathogens or illness.
Digestive system: Reduces blood flow to digestive organs, changes stomach acid levels, impacts gut flora, and alters gut motility function.
Mental health: Persistent and excessive fear can contribute to the exacerbation of anxiety disorders. Chronic fear can contribute to depression, impaired decision-making, hypervigilance, social withdrawal, and negative thought patterns.
Cardiovascular system: Fear can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output. Influence lipid metabolism such as cholesterol levels. Impacts blood vessel function leading to hypertension, and can also contribute to insulin resistance.
Nervous system: Physiological changes impacted by being in a chronic fear state can lead to increased heart rate, release of cortisol hormone, and inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system known as the “rest & digest” system.
Sleep disruption: Fear can negatively impact our sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Our emotions are messengers and we are not meant to escape negative emotions and only experience positive emotions throughout life. The human experience is full of different emotions, and fear is another emotion that we can experience, but also understand when we are being impacted by emotions that can create physical symptoms.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice but for educational purposes only.