A New Scientific Rationalization for Why We Fear


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Printed within the Journal of Nervousness Problems, a 2023 study by Baik and Newman supplies proof for a latest psychological principle of why folks have interaction in fear and rumination.

First, a few definitions.

Fear vs. rumination

What’s the distinction between fear and rumination?

  • Fear refers to repetitive damaging ideas about probably disagreeable future occasions.
  • Rumination refers to repetitive damaging ideas regarding current/previous difficulties—their that means, causes, penalties—or the hole between one’s desired and precise life.

So, an apparent distinction between the 2 is that rumination is worried with current/previous occasions; fear, with future threats.

For instance, a depressed individual could ruminate on the causes or that means of his or her lack of motivation—whether or not it may very well be brought on by laziness, incompetence, previous failures, and many others. Whereas he/she could fear about, say, a future assembly, examination, or physician’s appointment.

Regardless of these variations, rumination and fear share a lot in widespread: They’re each skilled as damaging, repetitive, and uncontrollable.

Each are additionally related to psychological sickness. As described within the DSM-5, fear is widespread in most types of nervousness (particularly generalized nervousness dysfunction), whereas rumination is extra widespread in temper issues (e.g., despair).

Analysis reveals rumination can be related to damaging temper and loneliness.

Causes of repetitive damaging considering

Why can we fear and ruminate? Why do we discover them helpful?

As a result of damaging repetitive considering tends to….

  • …lower the possibilities of experiencing damaging emotional contrasts.
  • …improve the possibilities of experiencing optimistic emotional contrasts.

For instance, being knowledgeable that you simply now not have a job could also be skilled as much less disagreeable for those who had been already feeling apprehensive and nervous about the potential of getting laid off. This happens as a result of there may be much less of a distinction between your emotions earlier than and after receiving the information.

What if the information is optimistic (i.e. your job is protected)? This can end in a bigger optimistic distinction. In any case, for those who had been feeling nervous or distressed, the excellent news could end in a way of aid and pleasure. Nevertheless, for those who had been already comfortable, then you could not really feel a lot better upon listening to that your job is protected.

However that is only a principle. The target of the examine that follows was to check these assumptions and study how fear and rumination have an effect on emotional contrasts.

Investigating makes use of of fear and rumination in despair and generalized nervousness dysfunction

Pattern: 63 individuals (48 females); common age of 19 years previous; 60 % White, 15 % Hispanic/Latino, 15 % African American, 8 % Asian/Asian American, and a pair of % multiracial.

Of the 63 individuals, 37 had main depressive dysfunction (MDD) and/or generalized nervousness dysfunction (GAD); the remaining served as wholesome controls.

Measures: Generalized Nervousness Dysfunction Questionnaire-IV; Beck’s Melancholy Stock-II; the Diagnostic Interview for DSM-5 Nervousness, Temper, and Obsessive-Compulsive and Associated Problems; and the Ecological momentary evaluation (EMA) measure.


As anticipated, fear and rumination resulted in elevated disappointment and nervousness however decreased happiness. They had been, moreover, related to diminished damaging emotional distinction.

In different phrases, larger fear and rumination prevented main emotional shifts. This was as a consequence of “lesser elevated damaging feelings and lesser decreased optimistic feelings.”

The information confirmed that in comparison with wholesome controls, people with nervousness/despair skilled extra damaging occasions, perceived these occasions as extra disagreeable (maybe as a consequence of larger sensitivity), and engaged in additional fear and rumination.

Importantly, the rationale these with nervousness/despair didn’t wish to maintain a optimistic emotional state was that being comfortable and relaxed made them really feel susceptible. To stop sustained happiness, they engaged in fear and rumination.

This agrees with the authors’ principle—the concept that anxious folks want optimistic feelings which might be transient relatively than persistent. So, though they wish to expertise happiness, pleasure, pleasure, or satisfaction, they need these states to final solely a short while.

Certainly, the extra time spent in a state of happiness and rest, the extra these people change into conscious about how susceptible they’re to sudden temper shifts into negativity. Naturally, this will increase their nervousness.


Supply: Larsgustav/Pixabay


Rumination and fear lower optimistic emotions and improve damaging ones.

There are two causes folks use rumination and fear as coping methods:

  1. To keep away from damaging emotional contrasts. For instance, they might agree with the assertion, “I used to be specializing in the damaging as a result of I wish to be emotionally ready in case one thing horrible occurs.”
  2. To keep away from sustained optimistic temper. As an illustration, they might agree with the assertion, “I used to be specializing in the damaging as a result of permitting myself to really feel comfortable leaves me susceptible to feeling horrible in the long run.”

So, the right way to have interaction in additional adaptive and more healthy emotion-regulation methods for dealing with nervousness and despair?

Psychotherapy could assist. How?

  1. By difficult optimistic beliefs concerning the usefulness of repetitive damaging considering. For instance, one could also be requested to maintain observe of day by day worries to find out whether or not the outcomes he/she feared really occurred. Actually, most issues we fear about by no means occur. One examine discovered that 9 out of 10 worries by no means got here true.
  2. By decreasing sensitivity to damaging emotional contrasts. Behavioral remedy, specifically publicity remedy to damaging emotional shifts, could cut back worry of those shifts; and consequently, eradicate the necessity for repetitive ideas.
  3. By decreasing sensitivity to extended optimistic temper. Right here, publicity remedy targets not the emotional shifts themselves however the emotions of vulnerability to these shifts. Mindfulness may additionally be useful in educating sufferers methods for being current and having fun with optimistic emotions—to savor comfortable, joyous, enjoyable, and satisfying life experiences.

To discover a therapist, please go to the Psychology Right this moment Remedy Listing.