Fear as Adaptive or Maladaptive Form of Emotional Response

As elaborated in the previous chapter, fear is one of the major components of psychological trauma that may or may not develop as a result of traumatic injury. It is a commonly accepted notion that fear as a form of emotion is a complex phenomenon that may be observed and manifested at different levels of analysis, such as overall behavioral responses (i.e., facial expression, muscular tension/freezing, trembling, etc.), cognition (i.e., a variety of rational and/or irrational decisions as result of the appraisal of stimuli), physiological processes (i.e., as reflected in alteration of heart rate, blood pressure, skill, galvanic reactions etc.), and activation of various brain structures which take part in the regulation of goal-oriented behaviors. According to Webster’s Dictionary, fear is defined as “unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger.” Although, current conceptualization of few trends to suggest that fear can be both adaptive response aimed at survival in face of life threatening circumstances and may create devastating psychiatric problems, including severe affective disorders. Specifically, according to Rosen & Schulkin (1998) fear responses (e.g., freezing, alarm, heart rate and blood pressure changes, and increased vigilance) are functionally adaptive behavioral and perceptual responses elicited during danger to facilitate appropriate defensive responses that can reduce danger or injury (e.g., escape and avoidance). However, pathologic anxiety, as a form of an exaggerated fear state, may develop from adaptive fear states as well. If that happens, the hyperexcitability of fear circuits that include several brain structures, such as amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal cortex (PFC), is expressed as hypervigilance and increased behavioral responsiveness towards fearful stimuli.


Conditioned Stimulus Anterior Cingulate Cortex Unconditioned Stimulus Fear Conditioning Skin Conductance Response 
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