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Feeling Afraid All The Time

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

Feeling scared, afraid, and anxious all the time description:

This feeling is often described as:

And many more.

What causes feeling afraid all the time?

There are two main causes of feeling afraid all the time:


The most common cause of feeling afraid all the time is apprehensive behavior (thinking and acting in an apprehensive manner, such as worry). Apprehensive behavior creates the physiological, psychological, and emotional state of being anxious (anxiety).

When we behave in an apprehensive manner, we activate the body's survival mechanism, more specifically, the stress response which secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

The more worrisome our thoughts are, the more active the stress response becomes. So worrying all the time will create the state of being anxious and afraid all the time.

The physiological, psychological, and emotional consequences of stress

As we mentioned, behaving in an apprehensive manner activates the stress response. A part of the stress response changes causes the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) to become more active and the cortex (the rationalization areas of the brain) to become suppressed. This change in brain functioning can cause a heightened sense of danger and fear while at the same time causing a diminished ability to rationalize. This emergency readiness change can make it seem that things are more threatening and that we have less ability to reassure ourselves that everything is going to be okay.

So behaving in an apprehensive manner, first, creates the state of anxiousness. Second, the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that result due to the stress response can increase our sense of danger and foreboding.

These factors alone can make us feel afraid all in time.

There's also another factor that needs to be considered.

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. But when stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. When the body becomes stress-response hyperstimulated, the nervous system, which includes the brain, can be adversely affected.

Stress response hyperstimulation can cause the amygdala to be overreactive, which can cause a sense of persistent danger, foreboding, and doom.

So it's not that the brain is malfunctioning, but that it's functioning exactly the way it's supposed to when we think we are in danger and/or when the body becomes overly stressed.

We explain this in great detail in the Recovery Support area of our website if you are interested in learning more.

Nevertheless, feeling afraid all the time is both caused by behavior and the consequences of apprehensive behavior (stress response and stress response hyperstimulation).

How to eliminate feeling afraid all the time

When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this feeling is caused by stress-response hyperstimulation, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where feeling scared all the time subsides.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from an active stress response or from stress response hyperstimulation, this feeling will completely disappear. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

It is important to recognize, however, that behaving in an apprehensive manner requires making behavioral change. For example, rather than scaring yourself by imagining the future in a threatening way, you need to change your behavior so that you imagine the future in a less threatening manner.

If you are having difficulty changing your behavior or dealing with your worry habit, you may want to connect with one of our recommended coaches/counselors/therapists to help you identify and address the underlying factors that cause you to behave in apprehensive manner.

Generally, most people can't make sufficient behavioral change on their own. An experienced anxiety disorder coach/counselor/therapist is almost always required to make meaningful and lasting behavioral change, especially as it pertains to uncontained worry.

If you would like more information about all of this, we have many chapters that deal with this in the recovery support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

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anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including feeling afraid all the time.