Our Bodies, Our Fears

Mar 14


Ransy Reynis

Ransy Reynis

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Our Bodies, Our FearsI think this is worth reading it.As they reach for the duct tape, ... say they’re more anxious than ever. ... research about how our brains and bodies process fear ca


Our Bodies,Our Bodies, Our Fears Articles Our Fears

I think this is worth reading it.

As they reach for the duct tape, Americans say they’re more anxious than ever. Scientific research about how our brains and bodies process fear can teach us how to live with long-term stress

By Geoffrey Cowley NEWSWEEK

Feb. 24 issue — Anthony Lepre started feeling awful almost as soon as Tom Ridge put the nation on high alert for a terrorist attack last week. The normally well-adjusted Los Angeles chiropractor started tossing and turning instead of drifting off to sleep at night. He awoke in the middle of the night short of breath, his heart pounding. And the sound of his telephone seemed a sure sign of bad news.

BY MIDWEEK, HE was rushing off to Costco to stock up on fruit juice, bottled water, peanut butter, canned tuna “and extra food for my cats Monster, Monkey and Spike.” He also picked up a first-aid kit, six rolls of duct tape and a bulk package of plastic wrap to seal his windows. “The biggest problem was that I felt helpless,” he says, “completely powerless over the situation.” The health-conscious 46-year-old even found himself chomping pizza and sweets, figuring a few treats would help him “forget about the situation for a while.”

And so it went for millions of Americans. The recent barrage of bad news—nukes in North Korea, snipers in Maryland, a failing economy, an imminent war, a threat of domestic terror—has left this privileged nation feeling unusually vulnerable and uncharacteristically anxious. Gas masks and biohazard suits are selling as briskly as duct tape and plastic sheeting. Winter vacations are on hold. Psychotherapists are working overtime. And even people who soldiered on after 9-11 are now blinking. Thirty-five-year-old Kateria Niambi, a lifelong Brooklynite who works as a marketing director in lower Manhattan, never thought of leaving New York during the grim fall of 2001. Yet she recently bought a house in suburban New Jersey and now plans to pack up her two daughters and move. “It was like, ‘Where can I go that my kids will be safe?’ ” she says.


Iraqi civilians are no doubt asking the same question. Israelis and Palestinians have asked it for decades. And though America’s current worries may seem unprecedented, the current situation has nothing on the 1918 flu pandemic or the Cuban missile crisis. Yet none of that makes living with fear any easier. As Drs. Afton Hassett and Leonard Sigal of New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School wrote recently, we’re living in a “chronic heightened state of alertness and ... helplessness,” prompted by a “poorly defined ... danger that could strike at any time in any form without warning.” Such feelings can be as unhealthy as they are unpleasant, impairing immunity, interrupting sleep and exacerbating everything from acne to ulcers. “The psychological state of fear affects us biologically,” says Los Angeles psychiatrist Carole Lieberman. “People who are anxious drink and eat more. They have more accidents. They’re more likely to get colds or suffer heart attacks.” In short, as University of Michigan neuroscientist Stephen Maren puts it, a brain system designed to keep us from getting eaten is now “eating away at us.”

Thanks Ransy Reynis

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