Some people may get sweaty and flushed or have cold, clammy hands when they’re afraid, he says. That’s because the blood flows away from the edges of the body toward the larger, interior muscles.
“If you’re going to be fighting or fleeing, you want as much blood flow to the big muscles of the body,” says Evans.
You’ll also experience a decrease in digestive activity. Peristalsis, which is a wave-like movement in the gastrointestinal system that controls digestion, takes quite a bit of energy, says Evans. And your body does not have time for that when you’re trying to avoid joining the Army of the Dead.
“All of the things that we think of as longer-term interests get diverted to the immediate interest: fight or flight,” he says.
Anxiety is fear gone wrong
The fear response is designed to deal with imminent physical dangers. But we live in a society and at a time when those kinds of dangers are pretty rare, says Evans. Instead, the kind of danger we experience is more psychological or social in nature.
But your brain—which tends to overgeneralize—can’t tell the difference, says clinical psychologist Kari Astley Stephens, Ph.D. That means your brain can react to something like missing a work deadline the same way it would respond to something that’s actually life-threatening, like a car crash or an earthquake.
“Anxiety is an emotional response to something that the brain thinks is dangerous, but isn’t actually dangerous,” says Stephens.
Some of this anxiety can actually be good. It protects you by telling you when there is something coming your way that you need to avoid. For example, missing a work deadline won’t kill you, but it could cost you your job. And walking outside at night isn’t necessarily dangerous, but having the fear response kick in and tell you to walk with a friend could keep you out of an unfavorable situation.