No more fear of fear – a guide for relatives, the cosmos in your head

No more fear of fear – a guide for relatives

Fear is a very useful, normal emotion. However, it can sometimes be a problem for people. What can you do if a family member has leukemia? > Scientific supervision: Prof. Dr. Matthias J. Wieser

  • Fear is basically a positive thing, but it can become a problem for some people. In this case there may be an anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorders (with or without agoraphobia), social phobias, generalized anxiety disorders and specific phobias are classically classed as anxiety disorders. While everyone expresses themselves in different ways, they all have in common that they lead to a great reduction in the quality of life and can be extremely stressful for both those affected and their relatives.
  • Affected people are often ashamed of their illness and often hesitate for years before seeking professional help. It is therefore important that they receive the necessary support from relatives and friends. A conversation with a family doctor or psychotherapist can often provide initial relief.
  • Anxiety disorders can be treated effectively with medication and psychotherapy. It is important to get involved in the therapy and not expect any immediate miracles.
  • Anxiety disorders are often associated with great psychosocial stress for both those affected and their relatives. With all care for your relatives, take care of yourself and seek help from an expert if necessary.
  • Do not stop your life due to the illnesses of your loved one. Keep active, meet friends and pursue your hobbies. What is good for you is also good for your loved one.

Ms. G. works in a medium-sized company, where she is responsible for around 30 employees. Her work is often hectic and stressful, she rarely comes to lunch. She was always energized at work and it was also increasingly difficult for her to switch off at home. In the end, this was also noticed by her family. One day Mrs. G. noticed that her heart was beating very fast, that she was trembling and that she was sick. Initially, these attacks only happened every few weeks and stopped after 10 to 15 minutes. Then they started to pile up; Almost daily, Ms. G. experienced panicky anxiety that was so severe that she often went black. She could only leave the house with great discomfort, and there was no longer any thought of work.


Eyeball / Bulbus oculi / eye bulb

The eye is the sense organ for the perception of light stimuli – of electromagnetic radiation of a certain frequency range. The light visible to humans is in the range between 380 and 780 nanometers.

When fear becomes a problem

Fear plays a central role in our lives and is an emotion that is well known to everyone. Fear helps us to avoid dangers and to move through our lives as safely as possible. This is healthy, positive fear. However, some people can become so exaggerated that their quality of life and daily “functioning” are severely impaired. Ms. G.’s fictional case makes it clear how serious this can sometimes be. It makes sense to get professional advice here, because there may be an anxiety disorder.

This often goes hand in hand with other mental illnesses, such as depression or addiction, and is often concealed for years because of shame. If they are not treated early, anxiety disorders are often chronic. That means they last a long time and are difficult to treat. As a result, places and situations that trigger fear are often avoided, and those affected increasingly withdraw from everyday life.

Often, family members and friends cannot understand “what the problem is”. This often increases the symptoms and leads to further tensions and conflicts. It is therefore important that you inform yourself about the nature of the disease.


Phases of mental illness, the main symptoms of which are sadness and loss of joy, drive and interest.

How to recognize an anxiety disorder?

Panic disorders (with or without claustrophobia), social phobias, generalized anxiety disorders and specific phobias are classically classed as anxiety disorders. Panic disorder leads to unexpected panic-like seizures, which can be associated with, for example, shortness of breath, palpitations or drowsiness, which often and understandably results in the avoidance of certain situations / locations (agoraphobia). Social phobias are characterized by a strong fear of public and interpersonal situations, which is why these can be avoided or only endured with great effort. While generalized anxiety disorders usually involve concerns about many different things, specific phobias cause severe fear of certain situations / objects, such as animals or heights.

How does it come to anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are often the result of negative experiences that have become independent. For example, imagine that you are driving a bus and suddenly experience rapid palpitations, tremors, and nausea. In your head you interpret this as a sign of an approaching heart attack and get off the bus as soon as possible. Now you are better and you calm down, but as a result your fear of another bus trip increases, so that you avoid it. This means that there is no relearning, which ultimately means that your fear of leaving the home becomes chronic – and an anxiety disorder develops.

What treatments are there?

Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication as well as psychotherapy. An expert decides which therapy suits best, taking into account physical factors, other medications or personal preference. For you as a close relative, it is advisable that you are involved at least at the beginning of the therapy – this can build up a feeling of togetherness and relieve the patient emotionally.

In addition to medication, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven particularly successful in the past. The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy is the recognition of fear-preserving or fear-triggering thoughts. In this way, a basic understanding of the disease is developed together with the patient. Furthermore, the patient is gradually confronted with the anxiety-inducing stimuli and instructed to face his fear.


“Emotions” are neuroscientists who understand psychic processes that are triggered by external stimuli and which result in a willingness to act. Emotions arise in the limbic system, an ancient part of the brain in terms of tribal history. Psychologist Paul Ekman has defined six cross-cultural basic emotions, which are reflected in characteristic facial expressions: joy, anger, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust.

What can you do for your loved one??

If you suspect that someone in your family has an anxiety disorder, you should encourage your loved ones to go to a doctor. Often people are ashamed of their fears for reasons ranging from helplessness to self-rejection and have corresponding problems to admit that they need help. This is the biggest obstacle to healing! In any case, be understanding in discussions and have an open ear for fears or concerns. Show understanding for your family member’s fears, but also emphasize that the illness also affects you and others. In this case, shared suffering can really be half suffering.

Tell your loved one that anxiety can often not be managed by gritting your teeth. Make it clear that anxiety disorders can be treated very well. Find out about the clinical picture and speak openly about the disease with your loved one. This can often help both sides to deal better with the disease and make each other’s behavior understandable.

Let your loved one decide if and when they want your help and respect their autonomy. In any case, refrain from old-fashioned advice or excessive interference in the life of your loved one. This can often be seen as patronizing and hurt your loved ones and destroy trust. Instead, support him with advice and action wherever he wants!


The ear is not only the organ of hearing, but also of balance. A distinction is made between the outer ear with the pinna and the outer auditory canal, the middle ear with the eardrum and the ossicles, as well as the actual auditory and balance organ, the inner ear with the cochlea and the semicircular canals.

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