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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- What happens in our brains when a monster jumps out in a scary movie or we hear a creaky floorboard when we are home alone?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “When we experience a frightening sight or sound, the stimulus triggers a series of signals in our brain. We freeze or jump involuntarily and our bodies get a surge of the hormone adrenaline. This makes our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure increase and our muscles tense. Our bodies are ready for “fight or flight”, ready to fight our fear or try to escape.”

And when the danger has passed, how do our bodies calm down?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “That is where our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. Sometimes nicknamed “rest and digest” the parasympathetic nervous systems helps us calm back down. Our breathing slows, our muscles relax, and our heart rate decreases. When someone tells you to take some deep breaths when you are stressed, this is the response that they are trying to encourage.”

Most of us feel our pulse race when the scary clown jumps out of no where, but what is going on when we feel this way for no good reason?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “If you are experiencing this fight or flight sympathetic nervous system response without something to fear, you may be experiencing anxiety.”

How common are anxiety disorders?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Anxiety disorders are different than just feeling nervous about something; they involve intense fear. According to the American Psychiatric Association, they are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. They report that the most common anxiety disorder is a specific phobia, where someone experiences intense and unreasonable fear about a certain thing like heights or snakes.”

What are some common specific phobias?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Insects or animals, heights, blood, thunderstorms, flying or driving, germs, crowds, water, and fear of enclosed spaces like elevators.”

What are the treatments for phobias?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medications are a few of the options.”

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