emotion induced by perceived danger or threat

Fear is a feeling or an emotion. When a person has fear, they are afraid or scared. A person who fears something does not want it to happen. The fear response comes from sensing danger. It leads to the fight-or-flight response. In extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) there may be a freeze response or paralysis.

A girl showing signs of fear and anxiety in an uncertain environment

In humans and animals, fear is adjusted by cognition and learning. Thus fear is rational or appropriate, or it is irrational or inappropriate. An irrational fear is called a phobia.

Fear is the body's way of protecting itself from doing things that may be dangerous. For example, if one has a fear of jumping off a cliff, he/she will not do it. This saves one from death. In this case, fear is a good thing but in others, it can be bad. An example of fear being bad is if it stops one from doing something important, like going to see a doctor. Methods of controlling phobias include facing the fear over and over so the effect of the phobia becomes less until it stops being a phobia.

There is only a small set of basic or innate emotions and fear is one of them.[1] The fear response helps survival by triggering appropriate behavioral responses. It has been preserved throughout evolution.[2]


  1. Öhman A. 2000. Fear and anxiety: Evolutionary, cognitive, and clinical perspectives. In M. Lewis & J.M. Haviland-Jones (eds) Handbook of emotions. pp. 573–593. New York: The Guilford Press.
  2. Olsson, A.; Phelps, E. A. (2007). "Social learning of fear". Nature Neuroscience. 10 (9): 1095–1102. doi:10.1038/nn1968. PMID 17726475. S2CID 11976458.