When anxiety turns into incurable fear

I HAVE vivid memories of a friend who lived and endured fear as a way of life. For her, life itself was a fearful experience and she allowed fear to consume and stop her from enjoying even the humblest things in life.

In sharp contrast, I used to feel that I was totally reckless with my "just-do-it" attitude where I had always believed that one learns valuable lessons through experience of having tried. I am one of those who can accept failure but not trying is a cardinal sin.

I was with a friend recently having a ball of a time at a banana leaf restaurant and I noticed that she discarded the leafy vegetables served on the leaf. For someone who loved vegetables I thought it was strange and then on confession I learnt that she habitually does not eat leafy vegetables at restaurants as she does not know if they had been washed properly.

Wow, I thought. Would you call that caution or phobia? As we know, fear is a mysterious force and an ailment as well. It disrupts our ability to think clearly and can drive us towards sheer panic. Having said that, fear can also give us momentary superhuman speed, strength, and powers of perception.

Is fear fine in small doses or should we totally go fearless in all our endeavours? There cannot be one answer for all instances, I am sure.

However, scientifically, we learn of the built-in system all living beings have to avert and avoid and the simple model "fight or flight" that people respond to when faced with extreme fear makes sense in most situations.

Having said that when we allow fear to consume us without reason or rhyme, it becomes a little too complex for ourselves and the people around us. People who have a fear for just about everything, from heights, to cockroaches, to water and even touching another are known to be suffering from panophobia and they can become misfits to life.

Panophobia or the fear of everything phobia might sound bizarre, but it does exist in the list of non-specific phobias. It is known by other names like omniphobia or pantophobia, according to Google.

As mentioned before, panophobia can be triggered by several other phobias. The intense anxiety or fear that something terrible is about to happen can be triggered by negative news, events or traumatic episodes in the past.

The person might actually turn into a phobophobic individual, where the person might fear anxiety itself. This becomes a vicious circle as the panophobe believes that the condition can turn into something worse, thereby intensifying the symptoms of all other phobias.

Often the causes of panophobia or fear of everything are difficult to trace, since the panophobe cannot remember how it all started. Nobody is born with this phobia; the brain just learns to fear everything negative or that which it perceives as "being dangerous".

A group of us had just been to Kashmir, the state that is in perpetual war and it is true that daily we hear smarting news about Kashmir and the fights that are going on there. Those of us who decided that nothing will stop us, went on with the tour and returned safe and sound with nothing else except the euphoric feeling that has left us on a high.

Family members and friends didn't spare us before our departure as they had a gala time filling us with news that shouldn't have really mattered.

In fact, many local agents from India did not want to take us on for the tour to Kashmir as they were unwilling to take on the responsibility of a risky venture.

Contrary to the loads of warnings we had, Kashmir proved to be as safe as it can be. No doubt there was overwhelming military presence everywhere, but we soon got used to it. Had we allowed fear to seep into us, we would have missed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see what cannot be believed otherwise. The charm Kashmir has to offer during winter is incomparable and lives up to its reference as "Paradise on Earth".

How do we address baseless fears? Being in the right company can make a huge difference. The person next to you can help you overcome and of course on a more sophisticated scale you could seek professional help, and hypnotherapy is one of them, I believe.

One thing is for sure, do not continue to live in that fear that haunts and taunts you as it is a leech that sucks every moment of life out of you. Just as in everything else, we do have a choice on how we want to respond to fear; like everyone else or choose to be different.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com