Fear is Bad for your Health: Fears are things that hold you back and wreck havoc on your life. They can be fear of going to the doctor, or you can get anxious about money. So in today’s show, Dr. Oz invites everyone to go to those dark and scary places and confront the fear. He himself has fear of heights. And when he went out on a tall edge and conquered his fear, he has finally let go of something that has held him back since childhood. Now, he never felt better.
If you leave behind your fears, you don’t know what you could be missing out on. But when left untreated, fears put your health at risk. So, now more than ever is the time to break through and conquer your fears because everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.
Dr. Oz invites psychologist Dr. Todd Farchione (author of Unified Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders) to talk about the long-term effects that fear and chronic anxiety can have on your health. He is Research Assistant Professor at Boston University and the Director of the Intensive Treatment Program at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. He specializes in intensive treatment for panic disorder and phobias.
Long-term Effects Of Fear And Chronic Anxiety On Your Health
Dr. Oz asks Dr. Farchione, “What are the biggest ways that fear affects our health?” He answers by saying first that conquering fear is so freeing. Now you can actually be open and free once you conquer fear when before you felt butterflies in your gut. He further explains that chronic anxiety and fear can actually have long term effects on health. It is tied to increased levels of cortisol which has also been linked to a lot of different problems such as:
- Weight gain
- Sleep problems
- Heart disease
These are the biggest things that hold you back from being who you could be in life. And the list of fear’s adverse effects can actually go on and on.
Your Fear is in the Brain
Dr. Oz asks where these things come from because there must be some reason for them that turn into phobias that hold us back. Dr Farchione explains that “fear really is in the brain. And fear is actually important because it has protective function for us. We need it to survive. It is the “fight or flight” response for survival which is a good thing. But sometimes those fears can become too much and turn into a phobia. When you are looking at phobia, the fear is in excess of the true danger of the situation. What happens to it is that people respond to situations in a certain way that causes problems with them and interferes with their life. The problem with fear is that people are not living the way that they want to live. So it’s important to be able to overcome it”.
How to get help with your fears
So the question that’s posed now is, “How do we help people today with their fears?” Dr. Farchione says that what needs to be done is to face your fears, and the way that he does it is exposure therapy. He explains that “Exposure therapy is designed to help somebody gradually approach the thing that they are afraid of and essentially re-train the brain in how it responds. So there’s this part of the brain that says, ‘Oh that’s scary…there’s something really dangerous there’, and we have to say, ‘No, it’s not.’” We confront the fear by approaching, as opposed to avoiding the situation.
How to overcome fear of Spiders
In this segment, Suzanne was invited to come and face the challenge of facing her fear. She has fear of spiders since childhood. When asked to describe her fear, she says, “I start to scratch all over. I feel like they are crawling all over me. I feel anxious. I feel like I go around and see where I am, and I try not to go in that area. The spiders jump, so you never know they might be jumping on my hair and I think they might just be on me, I scratch all over”.
Today, she decided to face this fear and get past it. Her motivation for conquering her fear is that she has a son who is 9 and she took him camping the previous year. He’s a boy scout, and she decided to support him in it. He became a scout leader eventually. They were in the woods and she saw a huge spider. She nearly left a group of young boys in the middle of a mountain because she was so terrified. When she was 17, she got herself a spider tattoo on her shoulder thinking that it would help. But after a month after she got the tattoo, every time she got off the shower she forgets that it’s only a tattoo, and so she beats herself because she was so scared. So the tattoo did not help. But this time, Dr. Falchione is here to help her conquer her phobia.
Break down your fear into actionable steps so that the amount of fear is manageable. For example fear of spiders. To confront this, you can:
- Look at images or videos of spiders online to mentally prepare yourself.
- Go to a pet store and look at live ones.
- Imagine touching the spider.
- Put your hand near the cage of the spider.
(The key thing here is not to look away. The body is going to respond in the way that it’s going to respond when facing fear, and you will feel negative reaction to the situation. But the important thing is to get past that initial reaction.)
- Put your hand inside the cage near the spider.
(This is when you tell the part of your brain that this thing is not actually dangerous.)
- Finally put your finger, or hand, on the spider.
(The goal is to really touch it.)
And so, it is important to have a plan of how you are going to face this thing you are afraid of. Instinctively, you want to avoid it and you don’t want to go into the direction of the thing you are afraid of. But this time you are confronting it. That’s the whole idea of breaking it down into smaller pieces.
By following these simple steps, Suzanne was able to conquer her phobia on a step-by-step process until she was finally able to touch a real, live spider. She was able to rise above her fear. She is now able to enjoy emotional freedom.
You too can beat your fear. Just follow the simple steps. And when you rise above your fear, you will enjoy freedom and total wellness.