Can Fear Really Kill You?


The truth is that, yes, fear can make you sick—and yes, it can even kill you. But the news isn’t all bad: Fear can actually help you by sending you the message that you need to take some action and thereby help you to heal your body, mind, and soul.

Let me first clarify: Real fear—the kind of fear that results from real-life events, is a natural survival mechanism that protects you from genuinely threatening situations.

Imaginary fear, which exists only in your imagination, comes from the mental stories you create about fearful life events. But…if you learn how to correctly approach the imaginary fear, this kind of fear can be your teaching tool, as well.

When I say, “Fear can make you sick,” I’m talking about imaginary fear.

Imaginary fear creates a significant amount of pain and unnecessary suffering for many people, as well as preventing them from enjoying healthy, happy, and successful lives. Most individuals don’t even realize the extent to which fear can influence their lives.

There is no doubt: Fear, a companion to stress, is a leading factor in the onset and progression of many diseases. In fact, when you’re stressed, you’re fearful of making mistakes, fearful of causing disappointment, or fearful of experiencing a worst-case scenario for no valid reason.

Fear and stress prompt your body to respond. This response is commonly known as the “fight-or-flight response.” The physiology of fear is complicated. It’s complicated because the whole body, including the mind, reacts very quickly to any fear, real or imagined. Unfortunately, your mind cannot distinguish between the real kind of fear and the imaginary fear; it therefore reacts in the same way to both types of fear by initiating the fight-or-flight response. This response releases many “bad hormones” to the body, such as cortisol, in particular narrows the arteries, supplying an immediate energy, adrenalin, increase blood pressure, and norepinephrine, increases blood pressure and heart rate. Your respiratory rate increases, your metabolism speeds up, and your natural self-protection system decreases. If the fear is real, the stress response will help you to (hopefully) survive a real attack.

If the fear exists only in your imagination, the same protective stress response will make you sick and, at the end, will potentially kill you. The stress response protects you by helping you to survive a fearful event…but only for limited time. If the fear (real or imagined) exists for prolonged periods (i.e., chronic fear) it will damage your body as a whole.


The human body is not designed to experience frightening situations very often and for long periods of time. If your life is full of fear all the time, you are making yourself extremely sick.

Your physiological response to fear is protective: It helps you to survive, but only when your fear is real and your body needs energy.

In writing these “scary things” about fear, my intention is not to frighten you but to educate you and to give you power and control over your health. You’re the only one who is responsible for the ways in which you react to fear. You’re the only one who can find a way to ignore or to put a stop to your imaginary fear. Now that you know a few things about fear, you’re in a position to do something about it.

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