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Anxiety and anxiety disorders are common. According to the Max Planck Institute in Munich, more than 7 million Germans are suffering from pathological fear. This corresponds to one sixth of people between the ages of 18 and 65. More about symptoms, causes and therapy of anxiety.


anxiety disorder

If you stand on a rickety rope bridge at a height of 100 meters and look at the torrent below, you may feel fear. The fear of this sight can also be a good reason not to go on this suspension bridge at all. If the travel destination can only be reached via such rope bridges, the choice of another holiday location appears understandable. This example illustrates: Fear is a normal human feeling that should warn us of dangers. But if the idea of ​​a rope bridge alone is enough to no longer dare to venture out of your own home, there is a suspicion of a so-called anxiety disorder , such as phobias and panic attacks, Near. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, excessive anxiety can be treated well with behavioral therapy from a psychotherapist.

Fear of fear

When the natural fear reaction is disturbed, a cycle of fear develops in many people: This fear of fear leads to behaviors that increasingly know only one goal: to avoid fear. It is easiest for most people to avoid the anxiety-causing situations. In this way, behaviors such as the trigger presser, who can no longer trust himself, develop. Or the aggressive person or naysayer who vehemently rejects any suggestion. Ultimately, these and other behaviors lead to isolation and aggravate fears. Because those who do not face their fears cannot have the positive experience of overcoming fears.


The World Health Organization (WHO) names anxiety disorders as the second most common mental illness after depression . Overall, women are affected by too much fear about twice as often as men. Recent studies also suggest that anxiety disorders start earlier – in childhood from around 10 years of age (see also: Anxiety Disorders in Children ).


Fear is a reaction of the human organism, which on the one hand should warn of dangers and on the other hand provides strength to counter the danger. Basically, fear is a comprehensive stress response that has three components:

  • physical symptoms of anxiety
  • Anxiety thoughts
  • Behavior in fear

Below is more on the three components of fear.

Physical symptoms of fear

Most people know the physical symptoms of fear from personal experience. The most noticeable are – in different forms – an accelerated pulse, soft knees and the feeling of slack in the stomach. In addition, there are often balance disorders such as dizziness, heat or cold showers, tearing, dry mouth, shortness of breath or blackening in front of the eyes.

These physical symptoms of fear are due to the organ’s immediate reactions. For example, the accelerated heartbeat is supposed to provide the body, especially the muscles, with better nutrients via the blood in order to be able to react quickly and vigorously to the threat. The blood is also diverted from the brain or stomach: this explains dizziness and the feeling of slack in the stomach.

Mental symptoms of fear

The role of thoughts in the symptoms of fear can be demonstrated in a small experiment. Just measure your pulse and then imagine a situation that you’re afraid of. The pulse rate will increase noticeably within seconds.

Psychologists assume that 90 percent of all fears arise exclusively in our heads. The good news: just as fears arise from the power of thoughts, they can also be stopped by thoughts. In the case of anxiety disorders, the help of a psychotherapist is usually necessary. In the case of mild everyday fears, the tips under “Self-help for mild fears” can also help.

Behavioral component of fear

Everyone is different. Some face the danger (attack is the best defense), others avoid it. On the one hand, this corresponds to the biological fear or flight behavior, on the other hand fear reactions – especially in early childhood – are learned. For example, if a parent is afraid of dogs, the child is more likely to be affected.

Unfortunately, people with anxiety often develop avoidance behavior over time. That means you try to avoid your fears. Exaggerated fears drive these people into retreat more and more and severely curtail their quality of life. The reason for this is the fear of fear.


Fortunately, there are very successful ways to deal with pathological fears. The most successful way to deal with fears is so-called confrontation therapy. It is a method from cognitive behavior therapy. From the outside, the procedure is simple: The anxious people – psychotherapeutically prepared and accompanied – are brought ever closer to the triggers of their fear.

Fears often subside quickly

The information about the fear from the psychotherapeutic preparation and the actual experiences of success in the gentle confrontation with the fear-triggering situations or stimuli lead in most cases to excessive anxiety and anxiety disorders within a few weeks.

Self-help against mild fears

Relaxation exercises and auto suggestions are particularly helpful for mild feelings of fear. Breathing techniques are one of the simplest relaxation exercises. You have probably already seen how a deep breath could calm you down in a frightening or stressful situation and make you able to act again. A somewhat more complex and very effective relaxation technique is Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation. When used regularly, it lowers the fear threshold. The same applies to yoga and autogenic training.

Simple auto-suggestions for fear: Auto-suggestions are especially helpful if you want to prepare for an anxious situation. Fears of an exam are a typical example. For example, if you repeat yourself before the exam – in your mind or even audibly – repeatedly: “I am well prepared. I can do it! ”Helps to overcome mild fears and to go to the exam with less or no worries. Such so-called affirmations or auto-suggestions are particularly helpful in rhyme form, because rhymes are absorbed more easily and better by the psyche.

You can learn how to deal with auto-suggestions in many adult education centers, health centers or sports clubs in courses for yoga, autogenic training or mediation. Many health insurance companies promote these courses. Ask there.

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