The instinctive reactions to intense fear are Fight, Flight or Freeze – F³. Fear is an important signal that life is in danger and action is urgently required. The fear can lead to increased awareness, or at times be intense and paralysing.

Military personnel are trained to recognise the classical signs of fear and become familiar with their own reactions to it. They learn to handle these reactions and to automate actions in different situations despite being frightened. The goal is to prevent action paralysis caused by physical reactions to fear.

Fear and stress reactions can also have positive effects:

  • Focused vision
  • Reduced sensation of pain
  • Sounds disappear or are reinforced
  • Muscles tense; ready for action
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased attention and focus

In a war zone, stress- and fear systems are switched on by default. This is a prerequisite for function and survival, comparable to “switching on the alarm”. After returning home, remaining in a hyper-vigilant state can lead to unhealthy reactions and challenges in everyday life. The alarm needs to be “turned off”. You can learn more about how to do this in Stress Management.