Abnormal Fear

When abnormal fear exists, the level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation – in fact, the fear may be totally unrelated to the situation. Abnormal fear can then result in a panic attack.

The person with abnormal fear can identify with this anguished cry … “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert.’ ”(Psalm 55:4–7)

A person experiences a panic attack when 4 or more of the following symptoms occur and reach a peak within 10 minutes or less. (The body cannot sustain the “fight or flight” for longer than that time):

  • Chest pain or discomfort (feeling like you are having a heart attack)
  • Chills or hot flashes (feeling like you must get to the hospital)
  • Choking sensation, difficulty swallowing (feeling like your throat is closing in on you)
  • Cold hands, tingling sensation (feeling like you are going numb)
  • Detached sensation (feeling like you are losing touch with reality or yourself)
  • Dizziness, lightheaded (feeling like you are going to faint)
  • Fear of losing control (feeling like you are going crazy)
  • Hyperventilating, shortness of breath (feeling like you are smothering)
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain and cramping (feeling like you have a life-threatening disease)
  • Rapid heart rate, pounding heartbeat (feeling like your heart is going to jump out of your chest)
  • Sweating, excessive perspiration (feeling like you are a huge embarrassment)
  • Terror of dying (feeling like you are sure to die)
  • Trembling or shaking (feeling like you are doomed)

People with abnormal fear are not as afraid of the object of their fear as they are of the symptoms of their fear. And, indeed, their fear is great. They experience the same feelings that Job had. “Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.” (Job 30:15)