Provides a broad and entertaining overview of fear from evolution, to modern day challenges, and how clinicians treat trauma, anxiety, and PTSD today.
About a third of the world population suffers from an anxiety disorder, and half of Americans have had at least one traumatic experience like rape, assault, shooting, or natural disasters. The news is full of stories about our dying planet, civil unrest, political fighting, and other anxiety-inducing subjects. On social media, digital tribes have lined up against each other and people worry they may get “canceled” for any number of perceived offenses. Fear and anxiety are with us everywhere we go.
Fear is one of the most deeply rooted biological mechanisms that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years in the brains and bodies of animals and humans with one key mission: to increase our chance of survival. Fear is deeply woven into our biology, culture, politics, and day to day life. We sometimes don’t even know what we are afraid of. What we know for sure is that we are afraid too often.
But why are we so scared? How does fear work in our brains? Why does our body react the way it does when we are scared? What is the evolutionary purpose of fear? Why do we enjoy watching horror movies? How does the brain of a brave person work differently than others? How do we learn to be afraid, and how can we unlearn? Is fear good or bad for creativity? Can we use fear to our advantage? How is fear used to manipulate us?
In this book, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist answers these questions. It is a comprehensive review of fear and anxiety in most tangible aspects of the modern life. Arash Javanbakht explores how our childhood experiences define the role fear plays in us as adults, how fear may or may not affect our genes, what excessive fear and anxiety can do to our brains and bodies, and the role of fear in the wake of trauma. Readers will come away with a better understanding of fear and how we can tamp its negative effects, how we can treat it medically if necessary, and how we can protect ourselves from fear’s most negative consequences.
Arash Javanbakht, MD, is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who currently serves as the Director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) at Wayne State University, School of Medicine. Dr. Javanbakht is a frequent invited speaker at national and international conferences and universities. Multiple media outlets and scientific organizations have featured Dr. Javanbakht’s work, including: CNN, NPR, Smithsonian, Aljazeera, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Scientific American, Science, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He is the academic advisor on the PBS documentary “Mysteries of Mental Illness.” He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Chapter 1: The Origin of Fear: Evolved to be Scared
Chapter 2: Wired to be Wired: Fear in the Brain
Chapter 3: Why Is My Heart Pounding? Fear in the Body
Chapter 4: How We Learn Fear, and How We Unlearn It
Chapter 5: Haunt My Nerves: Why We Love to be Scared
Chapter 6: Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear
Chapter 7: I’m Afraid, So I’m Angry: Fear and Aggression
Chapter 8: Diseases of Fear and Anxiety
Chapter 9: Haunting Memories: Trauma and PTSD
Chapter 10: Taming the Beast: How Clinicians Treat
Fear and Anxiety
Chapter 11: Riding the Beast: How to Use Fear to
Chapter 12: Fear and Meaning: Defining It before It
Chapter 13: Fear and Creativity: Monsters that We
Forge, and Monsters that Forge Us
Chapter 14: Fear that Rules Us: Politics of Fear
Chapter 15: The Business of Fear
About the Author
According to Javanbakht, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and founder of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University, fear is a biological mechanism that has served to protect humanity for centuries. But these days, with few dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers attacking, our fears and accompanying anxiety are often detrimental rather than helpful. (He considers, especially, how social media and targeted news reports can stoke fear.) Using research findings, patient cases, news stories, and personal experiences, Javanbakht examines the roots of our fears and possible solutions for reigning them in. He delves into different types of fears and anxieties, describing the criteria that divide clinical cases from normal reactions, and suggests therapies to ease symptoms. None of this is in the service of eliminating fear entirely. Adequately harnessed, fear can help us beat procrastination, increase bonding, and spur creativity. In the end, Javanbakht urges readers to keep their fears and anxieties in perspective, facing their lives with awareness.
Afraid is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the multifaceted nature of fear and anxiety. The author's ability to present complex topics in an accessible and engaging manner ensures that readers will remain captivated throughout the book, and walk away with a comprehensive understanding of these emotions. What sets this book apart from others in the field is the actionable information it provides. From outlining the various clinical treatments for anxiety to offering practical advice on how to use fear to our advantage, Afraid empowers readers to take control of their fears and live more fulfilling lives.
A provocative journey into the heart of fear itself, Afraid also helps us understand the impact of fear and anxiety on our brains and bodies, and highlights the importance of treating our trauma-based illnesses and phobias.
These days, It's not hard to feel like we humans are trying to hold it together in a world that is coming undone. Afraid gives succinct, poignant and real world examples of how humans perceive fear and anxiety, pointing out that the human mind is often seduced into the unfortunate combination of overestimating threats and underestimating its ability to cope. Dr Javanbakht has given us a wonderful treatise on fear and anxiety for both health care professionals and the general audience alike. I loved the fluidity and ease of reading this book, compassionately showing that we are equipped with stone age brains in an increasingly digital world. I'm not Afraid to highly recommend this book!
In Afraid, Dr. Javanbakht brings the world of neuroscience to the general population in an approachable, entertaining, and informative review of the most recent findings as they apply to fear and anxiety. He weaves clinical case examples throughout to demonstrate key concepts including where fear and anxiety come from, how they impact the brain and the body, and how problematic fear and anxiety can be treated. The chapters include focus on the fundamentals of fear and anxiety as well as stepping into our modern world and illustrating how human fear and anxiety can used as tools for social, economic and political gain often to the disservice of the public. Afraid is both entertaining and informative.
Kudos to Dr. Javanbakht on this easy-to- read, helpful and thoughtful book! From the lens of an experienced clinician and researcher, and using personal vignettes and clinical experiences, Dr. Javanbakht explores and provides ways to better understand the relationship between fear and anxiety, through the life cycle. A very important topic, especially in these trying times.
Afraid is a comprehensive and accessible review of both the neuroscience and human impacts of fear, trauma and related conditions. If you want to understand this experience form many angles, this is a great book to read.
Little surprise that Javanbakht finds numerous occasions to connect his field of expertise to recent developments in news from around the world. In particular, the evidence of intergenerational transmissions of fear, anxiety and trauma make for unhappy implications. Yet the author’s tone is almost always energetic, even jaunty.
9/5/23, The Conversation: Arash Javanbakht wrote a piece about fear highlighting themes he covers in the book.
9/11/23, Michigan Public Radio / Stateside: Arash Javanbakht is interviewed about the book, discussing the research behind fear and how we can put it to work.