“Love drives out fear” – it’s true, research

The Bible has a part of a verse that says, “Perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:18. According to new research, it’s true!

New research from the University of Exeter has found that being shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain’s response to threat.

The study found that when people were presented pictures of others receiving emotional support and love, the amygdala, the brain’s fear center, didn’t respond to images showing threatening facial expressions or words.

The study, published this week in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggests that being reminded of being loved and cared for dampens the threat response and may allow more effective functioning during, and activation of soothing resources after, stressful situations. This was particularly true for more anxious individuals.

“A number of mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are characterized by hypervigilance to threatening information, which is associated with excessive negative emotional responses, amygdala activation and a restricted ability to regulate these emotions and self-sooth. These new research findings may help to explain why, for example, successful recovery from psychological trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social support individuals receive. We are now building on these findings to refine existing treatments for PTSD to boost feelings of being safe and supported in order to improve coping with traumatic memories.” – Senior researcher, Dr. Anke Karl of Psychology at the University of Exeter.

So, if you are feeling threatened, get a hug from someone who loves you. Love can cast out fear!