We all form illogical connections in our brains. For example, most of us have a problem with procrastination. When we think about homework (or other unpleasant tasks), we feel a sense of dread. However, procrastination is an illogical behavior because putting something off makes the problem even worse. Our feelings can lead us down the wrong path. When we finally do the task that we’ve been putting off, it’s never quite as bad as we imagined it. Our brains make a highly illogical connection between putting something off and the immediate relief of avoiding an unpleasant task. The erroneous connection can cause us to do things that don’t benefit us.
Fear and anxiety are normal. Our brains are wired to keep us alive. Unfortunately, sometimes our brains get things wrong and tries to protect us against situations that aren’t actually dangerous. Our brains can erroneously tell us that our own anxiety is dangerous.
The good news is that learned fears can be unlearned. Given enough time and effort, we can re-train our brain to recognize that our feelings of anxiety are harmless and don’t require a flight or fight response. There are many scientifically-proven treatments for panic attacks such as exposure therapy (or CBT with exposure), relaxation, flooding, cognitive restructuring, and others.1 2 3
Many of our reactions to the world are learned. We aren’t born with a fear of needles; we learned from experience that needles are painful. After doing so, some of us developed some level of fear towards needles/syringes. However, we can also unlearn our fears. Throughout our lives, we commonly unlearn fears such as the fear of riding roller coasters, dealing with the opposite sex, sleeping without our parents in the same room/bed (as a little child), etc. etc.