Psychology: 5 Positive Side Effects of Anxiety That We Often Underestimate

For many people, fear is an unpleasant emotion. But like other emotions, fear has a purpose and helps us through life. Psychologist Professor Andreas Strohl from Berlin Charité has revealed to us the positive effects that fear can have on us.

Let’s not beat around the bush: fear is usually no fun. Fear, like sadness, anger, and disgust, is one of the emotions we hate and associate with unpleasant experiences. However, like sadness, anger, and disgust, fear has a right to exist in the realm of our emotions. Like our other emotions, our fear moves us through life. Sometimes it helps us make decisions, and sometimes it puts us in a situation where we can better handle certain situations. Life without fear may be fun – but it may not be very successful or for long.

Against this background, it generally makes sense to know a little bit about our fears and make friends with them. In any case, it will accompany us as long as we feel it, and it will almost certainly mean no harm to us. Prof. Dr. Andreas Strohl, Senior Physician and Head of the Private Outpatient Clinic for Anxiety Disorders at Charity Berlin, has revealed to us what fear can bring us about the positive effects, provided it does not go beyond the healthy level.

5 positive effects of fear that we often forget

Fear alerts us to threats and dangers

Andreas Ströhle says, “Fear is basically a warning or alarm reaction.” Emotions help us recognize dangers and protect us from dangers.

For example in front of a fast car. or from the unit. or before the war.

Fear can manifest itself physically and, for example, stimulates our sweating, speeds up our pulse, raises blood pressure, and thus enhances blood circulation in our muscles. Or they make them tangible in our thoughts, for example in the form of fears and thought. Either way, when something frightens us, it’s hard to ignore – which is exactly the point of these fear signals, because when something frightens us, it’s usually important to find a way to deal with it.

For example, look left and right before crossing the street. Or we maintain our friendships and relationships. or flee when attacked.

Fear helps us focus

“Ideally, a healthy response to fear means we have the maximum amount of resources available to successfully deal with a situation that is full of threat and fearful,” says the psychiatrist. Normally, bodily functions such as digestion and metabolism slow down when people are afraid, while blood flow to muscles and certain areas of the brain improves. Usually, when we are afraid, we can focus more easily on the one thing that is frightening us and block out other things. We focus and focus our energies on dealing with an issue of threat or concern.

Fear helps us motivate ourselves

Certain fears can motivate and encourage us to take meaningful actions and behaviors. “Fear of exams and failure, for example, means we prepare appropriately for the exam, but of course only if they remain within a healthy framework,” Andreas Strohl says. The same applies to the fear of losing a job or poverty, which ideally encourages us to do our work or strive for a regular income. The complete absence of fear in such areas means that we will eventually not care about exams, job loss or poverty, and will likely have a hard time motivating ourselves to study, work or save money.

Fear lets us know what we want

Our health concerns are usually related to aspects, things, people, or areas that mean something to us. For example, if we are afraid of losing someone, this indicates that this person is important to us. And we want it in our lives. When we are afraid of failing at something, proving ourselves in it seems important to our self-image or self-esteem. Fear of the future shows us that we have a certain need for control, planning, structure, and clarity – and we want to shape our lives as proactively as possible.

Fear makes us realize what is necessary for us

In situations of extreme anxiety, such as an accident or when a potentially dangerous and highly contagious virus is circulating, we usually see very clearly what is really important to us – whether it’s survival or our loved ones. For example, many people feel the need to talk to their loved ones again when their livelihood is seriously threatened. In turn, when we experience a serious illness or the death of a loved one, it can cause our lives to change and our priorities completely change. It is not desirable to find ourselves in a situation where we fear death, but in very fortunate circumstances the experience of this fear can enrich us later.

Health Anxiety vs. Illness Anxiety

When it comes to the points mentioned, we have always assumed a healthy fear – as a general rule, we do not test the emotional support effect if we are too or too little fearful. Andreas Ströhle says, “We can imagine our anxiety performance curve as an inverted U. At an optimal level of anxiety, our ability to handle the situation in question is at its peak, while too much or too little anxiety leads to a decline in performance.” Above all, excessive fear is a problem in our society that affects many people. In the following article, you will learn how to recognize that you are very anxious.

Andreas Strohl

Andreas Strohl is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Charity Berlin.

© Urban Zintel / Private

Mr. Dr. Medical Doctor Andreas Strohl Specializes in psychiatry and psychotherapy. He is Senior Consultant, Head of Affective Disorders and Working Group and Private Outpatient Clinic for Anxiety Disorders at Charity Berlin. In conjunction with his colleague, the special lecturer, Dr. Jens Plagg has published “Keine Panik vor der Angst” (Random House), which explains the background to panic and fear and shows strategies for coping. Together with colleagues, Professor Strohl has developed a video course entitled Understanding and Overcoming Panic for the Physician Health Platform. In six modules, you will learn everything you need to know about panic attacks and receive helpful tips and strategies for returning to a fear-free life.


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