Team Magenta! Nawal, Jessica T., Jessica O., Rahim, Julieet, and Brandon

Can fear and anxiety be conquered through willpower?

Anxiety and fear, could be desisting for human productivity and function, either momentarily or as a reoccurring state. In the momentary sense, they may be necessary if not useful, however a prolonged state may prove problematic. The page will explore the concept of whether fear and anxiety can be conquered with willpower.


Anxiety and Fear - What They Are:
Anxiety is the distressful state or unease of the mind, caused by fear of an undesired possible happening. In Psychiatry it is characterized by a state of inner turmoil; being worried, mental tension, and nervousness which may be, or characteristically part of, a mental disorder. Fear on its own but related to anxiety, is an unpleasant emotion that is in response to a situation, object or person that impends to be dangerous, a possible cause of pain or a threat. Fear is a more direct response, a negative emotion while anxiety may be subjectively caused, as anxiety is a mood.

Will Power:
The individuals decision and following through of self control and or discipline on actions and impulses.

Biology of Anxiety and Fear: Interior Systems

The Brain

It is scientifically study that brain chemistry is a large factor that changes in relation to emotion. The differentiation between fear and anxiety is that anxiety is often prolonged and an irrational state of fear not usually caused by a direct outside source. In the brain, anxiety can be traced to overactivity in the amygdala, the small area center of the brain that, among other things, responds to threat.

There has been discovered a difference of the amygdala between a male and female, the one in the male usually being larger. Also, males usually have the right amygdala respond, the side impart to action taken on negative emotions. This is related to the generalization that men respond with physical action. Females usually have the left side respond, which thus activates more thought than action with negative emotion.
When the amygdala is in use, it determines a physiological response as well as a better captured memory. When there is hypersensitivity in ones amygdala, there is possibility for the development of an anxiety disorder.


Modern research had lead to reveal that disorders and diseases have genetic background. From this we can assume that psychiatric disorders have a genetic predisposition. The basis lies in the nervous system and it’s sensitivity, babies born showing a higher reaction level to stimulation have been thought to be predisposed to developing anxiety disorders. Logically, sensitivity leads to increased intensity of perceptions. Genetics also have a component in a persons personality and character. This formulation reveals there are many predisposed factors that may lead to ones overall impression and possible development of disorders.
Neuroticism is a personality characteristic defined by ones sensitivity to stress and their negative analysis to stressful prompts. This is an example of a characteristic trait that puts one at risk for developing anxiety.

Human factors involved with anxiety and fear
-The nervous system: nerve cells and conducting fibers.
-The cardiovascular/circulatory system: the heart, blood vessels, blood, lymph, lymphatic vessel and glads.
-The respiratory system: intaking of oxygen, expelling of carbon dioxide.
-The digestive system: absorption of food
-The excretory system: removal of excess material
-The endocrine system: produced from glands to control metabolic activity

Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms to this disorder may or may not be experienced dependent of the person, also to the degree of which they occur is subjective. The first three categories are usually cause of imperative function for the individual outside of themselves but the last is the most distressing for the inner understandings.

Physical - Uncontrolled Physiological Occurrences
Shortness of breath
Increased hate rate
Chest pain or discomfort
Muscle tension, or trembling
Nausea and/or diarrhea
Dizziness, feeling faint
Hot flashes or chills
Numb or tingling sensations
Exaggerated startled response, could be interpreted as easily shocked
Sleep disturbance and fatigue

Behavioural - Automated Attempts to Cop
Avoidance of anxiety-producing circumstances
Escaping from anxiety-producing circumstances
Engagement in unhealthy or self destructive acts
An urge to reduce or limit activity or involvement
Attachment to an object or person that is deemed safe

Cognitive - The Usual Intrusive Thoughts
Questioning the probability of something happening
Desire for certainty/ clarity
Questioning of noticed changes
Fears of rejection and alienation
Hopelessness of recovery
Uncertainty of own well being

Emotional - Feelings Induced
Apprehension and/or mistrust
Dread or fear
Nervousness and edginess
Being overwhelmed

These are a few examples as there may be many more.

Evolutionary Reasoning

In terms of anxiety and fear, the “fight or flight” response is highly related. In the position of being faced with anxious or fearful prompts, such as a physical threat, this innate response determines our reactions that we choose to carry out in order to come to a resolve. Evolutionarily, it assisted with our survival. In our most relevant modern times, this response is usually initiated not by a life threatening source but from everyday happenings. To explain, attempt to recall a moment you may have been left with either a choice to defend yourself or to turn away. While this response is activated, almost anything may appear as a potential threat. You may experience many uncomfortable physiological, negative psychological and unusual behavioral changes when you feel you have not found a resolve. It has been said by experts that having a hypersensitive “fight or flight” response is within people who have an anxiety disorder. Thus, this response activate much easier, without much or even real potential threat. Once again, this shows that people with anxiety constantly feel as if they are being threatened. The linking development has been supported by Psychologist David H. Barlow of Boston University, he states that once the response is activated because of a distinct situation, the body learns this association and so the response is prompted each time the situation reoccurs.
Anxiety is reasoned to be an extension from this response. To overcome this response from overriding, it is important to clarify the actual cause of anxious of fearful feelings.

(Jullieet Lai)

Causes of Anxiety and Fear: Exterior Systems

Many factors such as environmental, external, medical and substance abuse can contribute to the development of anxiety symptoms. Individuals usually undergo anxiety due to potential threats, some if which may be considered to be false alarms. Nevertheless, this affliction can also aid one to abstain from danger.

External Factors

Many parents share a common factor that leads to anxiety symptoms: finances. Being unable to provide food and shelter for their children due to a low income can cause parents to experience apprehension. Parents who struggle with finance often feel as if they have failed their family and are constantly concerned about not being able to pay for bills, or resorting to living within a homeless shelter. Parents with minor children are especially distressed, as homeless shelters are not considered to be safe for young children, and foster care often causes children to become separated when brought to a new home.
A study shows that people who have suffered from childhood sexual abuse as well as physical abuse contributes to anxiety disorders. Psychologists conducted a a research study based on 205 patients who suffered from anxiety. 23.4% of the individuals reported that they were subjected to childhood sexual abuse. 44.9% of the individuals reported that they have gone through physical abuse. Patients who have encountered physical abuse as well as childhood sexual abuse were diagnosed with depression as well as concurrent major depression. These patients were also unable to function socially. However, the intensity of the anxiety disorder and the manifestation of concurrent major depression depends on the the childhood sexual abuse and the physical abuse.
The death of a loved one may also trigger anxiety symptoms. A research shows that based on 222 caregivers, 23% who were not predisposed for the death of their loved one suffered from anxiety.
Stress in relationships and marriage can also contribute to anxiety symptoms. Spouses of both sex may experience anxiety. An individual in a relationship or marriage sometimes feel as if they are not viewed as attractive, and feel unappealing. This can cause a partner to become in an apprehensive state, because they fear that their significant other may leave them. In relationships, partners may feel worried in the early stages of dating, as they begin to acknowledge their partners habits and may fear separation. Men in marriages who are making less money than their spouses also experience anxiety, as they fear that their spouse may separate from them due to their independence. Divorce is a major factor that leads to anxiety, especially when children are involved. Spouses fear they may not gain custody of all their children.
Students who fear they will not excel in school and are worried before writing a test often suffer from anxiety. These students may believe that if they receive a particular grade on an examination, it defines them. They are worried that if they receive a low grade, they will never excel in school and are not smart. They begin to lose confidence and are pessimistic. Thus, they are always apprehensive and nervous about examinations.
Stress at work can also lead to anxiety. When employees are given a certain task, and they are unable to complete the task in the correct manner, they are worried about their coworkers will think of them, and ultimately, they are very nervous about their employers opinions. These employees often view themselves as failures and are always worried that they will not complete their given task correctly.


Factors that cause fear:
Terrorist attacks
Nuclear War
These factors impose a threat to survival, thus lead to the experience of the negative emotion of fear.

Environmental Factors

There is a decrease in air pressure as there is an increase in altitude. Thus, individuals may undergo stress due to lack of oxygen. This is a condition referred to as hypoxia. When individuals are present in high altitude regions, there is an augmentation in breathing an heart beat. Stressful physiological feedback include an increase of the pulse rate and blood pressure in attempt for the heart to send oxygen to cells.
Natural disasters also lead to anxiety. The unpredictability of natural disasters such as tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, earth quakes, and mudslides can cause families within many nations to become apprehensive, especially if they have experienced a natural disaster or many natural disasters previously. Many people have lost their loved ones and their homes to natural disasters. Thus, leaving families unable to provide food and shelter for their families and worried that friends and families will experience tragic and painful deaths. People who have been victims of mudslides and earth quakes may have never been discovered, causing friends and families to worry about whether their loved ones are still alive or dead.


Some environmental factors lead to the emotional response of fear. We fear spiders because they have posed a threat to our ancestors in the past their. People are more inclined towards curved shapes and bright colours. However, spiders have legs of an oblique shape and are often dark in colour. They also move extremely suddenly which cause humans to fringe.
Humans also experience fear when they come across snakes, as many snakes are venomous and attack humans. Height is also a fear factor that many individuals share, as the fear of falling from high altitude regions may result in death.

Medical Factors

A diagnosis with a serious medical illness can contribute to apprehensiveness. Patients who are diagnosed with cancer and other chronic illness sometimes acknowledge that they have always possessed that particular disease, but were unaware of this. Thus, they are worried about when they will die, whether they will still be able to live normal lives, and raise and support families.
Side effects of particular medication can contribute to anxiety. Such medications include: Aminophylline, Isoproterenol, Metaproternol, Ephedrine, Epinephrine, Synthetic thyroid hormones, Reserpine, Prednisone, Cycloserine, and Antidyskinetics.
Hypoxia (lack of oxygen due to blood clots in the lung) also leads to anxiety.
Symptoms of medical illnesses such as depression, panic disorders, social phobia, and post traumatic stress disorder also contribute to anxiety.

Substance Abuse

A study shows that intoxication from unlawful drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, leads to the development of symptoms of anxiety. Substance abusers suffered from depression, conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder (also referred to as hyperactivity disorder/not attention deficit disorder.

(Nawal Ahmed)

Coping Skills

One research study suggests that taking three deep breaths in situations that induce anxiety and fear is helpful in being able to calm oneself and to maintain such a state. By doing this simple action, the brain is able to receive additional oxygen necessary for the body to return to a condition of stability. Moreover, in a calm state, one becomes capable of assessing the situation with proper logic and rationalization and subsequently, one is able to recognize the possible options that can lead to outcomes of which reduces the effects of anxiety or fear. This study also suggests that singing aids in lessening the effects of anxiety or fear as the action triggers a different area in one’s brain. Especially if it is an upbeat song, one’s thoughts are more easily influenced positively and eventually, any feelings of anxiety or fear subside and the individual is left feeling more in a position of control.

Many other research studies report that cognitive therapies produce the best results in regards to the treatment of anxiety and fear. Several cognitive strategies for coping are positive refocusing, refocus on planning, positive reappraisal, and putting into perspective—all of which are most commonly employed by individuals in response to being in unpredictable or traumatic events. Positive refocusing is the mechanism by which an individual thinks about matters that induce happiness in contrast to the actual circumstances, which produce the opposite sensation. Refocus on planning refers to considering the best possible solutions to resolving the situation. Positive appraisal is the method whereby an individual substitutes the negative aspects of the situation with feelings of positivity that arise from instilling a belief that the predicament is necessary for personal growth. Putting into perspective refers to convincing oneself that the situation could be much worse and therefore, one can consider it to be not as severe as it initially appeared to be. A correlation is proven to exist between the frequent implementation of these cognitive coping strategies and the decreasing chance of emotions like anxiety and fear arising in one’s future.

Additional research studies confirm the efficacy of cognitive strategies for coping including appraisal-focused, emotion-focused, and problem-focused strategies. Appraisal-focused strategies refer to the modification of values and objectives in accordance with the possible options present in a situation. Emotion-focused strategies involve expressing and releasing negative emotions and are especially beneficial when one performs activities pertaining to relaxation and meditation. Problem-focused strategies consist of employing one’s problem-solving skills in order to learn about the causes of the circumstance and the ways in which it can be handled. Among these three methods, problem-focused strategies are proven to be most effective in diminishing anxiety and fear.

(Jessica Tran)

Applying different Perspectives of Willpower to Fear & Anxiety

Knapp, John R.; Delprato, Dennis J. The Psychological Record 30.4 (1980): 477-482.

A research study was conducted to determine whether or not Willpower is a necessity in overcoming 24 "self indulgence" problems such as smoking, or alcoholism. A questionnaire was distributed to see what the public thought, and 465 respondents took the questionnaire; 227 males and 238 females. The main finding of the present study is that despite the outlook of scientific psychology, many adults view willpower as a necessaryfactor in bringing about behavioral change (John R. Knapp & Dennis J. Delprato 1980). Rather than willpower being considered equally necessaryfor either individuals or problem behaviors, it was more perceived as overcoming "bad habits". Often, willpower is heavily dependent on the individual's characteristics and personality, as it is difficult for simply anybody to "will away" any bad habit so easily. Whether or not anxiety and fear could be overcomed through willpower in this perspective is debatable, as this article's findings state that it is more necessary for bringing about behavior changes such as bad habits, not necessarily changing emotion or moodlets.

Karasu, Sylvia. American Journal of Psychotherapy 58.2 (2004): 238-239.

Another perspective of how willpower works or is often prevalent in our lives is given by Dr. Ethel Person, one of the great doyennes in the Psychoanalytic community in contemporary times. Power plays a significance in comprehending how willpower works in this context, and as so, we must first look at the concept of Power as a prism through which to view aspects of human relationships and aspirations (Person, 2004). She divides power into two major types- Personal and interpersonal powers. Personal power is similar to the concept of willpower, and it deals with self-control as well as self-determination, and it is the power of agency, of self-expression and of mastery. Interpersonal power is the power we exert in our relationships with others. She states that we need to establish an equilibrium with these two powers. The significance of this perspective is that it can now be applied to the concept of willpower to determine whether or not fear and anxiety can be "willed" through. Since power is often prevalent in our lives and how we have a necessity to strive for it in our psyches, if the determination and control is there, we should be able to 'will' through fear and anxiety since it depends on our agencies to make a difference.

Wik, Tracey. People and Strategy 34.4 (2011): 66-67.

After their research, both Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney discovered that self-control with innate talent aside, is the differentiating factor of who succeeds in life in contrast to those who do not. Baumeister stated that willpower has a physical component to it as opposed to the popular belief of it being metaphysical, and that it functions as a muscle does. Just as other muscles, it can be strengthened with practice and fatigued with overuse (Baumeister 2011). According to Baumeister, if Willpower works as a muscle, then it implies that it is finite since it is able to tire out, and that we must learn how to conserve it to use for moments when we will truly need it. According to their research, both Baumeister and Tierney found that very successful people are distracted less, meaning they do not need to use their finite supply of willpower so overusing your reserves often shows signs of unsuccessful concequences thereafter. Based on this context, if we look at willpower as a muscle with finite capabilities, then there must be some moments where we can overcome fear and anxiety using those reserves.


Cases of Willpower over Fear

Some common fears in people of today’s society (in varying intensities) include: fear of flying (Pteromerhanophobia), fear of spiders (Arachnophobia), fear of public speaking (Glossophobia), and fear of Public Spaces (Agoraphobia). Below is a brief outline of techniques used to overcome fear in each instance. In any case, the role of will power is the factor that brings the individual to initally address the fear and carry out the treatment and eventually face the fear.

Fear of Flying:
• In one study, virtual exposure to flying was used to gradually desensitize individual. It was done in six sessions gradually increasing the exposure each time. Following the simulation, the individual went on a real flight while having their anxiety levels monitored. Measurements showed the individual had a comfortable flight. (Rothbaum, Hodges, Watson, Kessler and Opdyke, 1996) 1

Fear of Spiders:
• 1 hour virtual reality exposure sessions were the held and observed in this study. They showed to be more effective than Fear of Spider questionnaires and Behavioural Avoidance Tests. (Garcia-Palaciosa, Hoffmanb, Carlinc, Furness and Botellaa, 2002) 2

(Rahim Mohamed)

Fear of Public Speaking:
In several case studies, subjects experienced simulations wherein they were speaking to audiences in virtual auditoriums. At the start of the treatment, no members of the audience spoke but as it progressed, sounds effects were implemented into the simulation. Subjects were reported to have acquired much more confidence in public speaking situations after the treatment.

Fear of Public Spaces:
In many case studies, simulations were conducted wherein the subjects experienced virtual scenes of being in public places that induce anxiety and fear. Results showed that most of the subjects’ anxiety and fear diminished and that they felt more comfortable being in public spaces.

(Jessica Tran)

Benefits and Issues with Overcoming Fear

The benefits of conquering fear are numerous. What was once an instinctive reaction by the body to promote self preservation can now be a hindrance in normal functioning in today’s society. Fear can be observed as the root of many societal issues such as disputes over religion and racism. On a more personal level fear has the ability to inhibit one from taking part in certain tasks from going on a plane (Pteromerhanophobia) to being in public places (agoraphobia). Conquering fear would open one to opportunities that the individual may have never thought existed.

Though Fear can hinder one’s ability to navigate through society, many stimuli that instil fear are justified when present in optimal amounts. A fear of traffic helps prevent an individual from running across the street during the morning rush, though at the same time an extreme level may lead to someone avoiding car rides altogether. Fear is necessary for human function when present in the right amounts. Though fear instils what humans perceive as a negative feeling it also creates focus on the stimuli. As observed in sports, fear on some level is needed to provide the appropriate amount of focus on the situation. Too little fear may lead to one not realizing the importance of their situation and not exerting enough effort, where as too much fear may lead to tunnel vision and over thinking. Like many of life’s qualities fear is required in moderate doses.

(Rahim Mohamed)


Anxiety can be treated without medication by many physical activities and performances.

Managing stress

This can be achieved by:
taking time to relax
relaxing methods such as breathing exercises
positive self talk
envisioning success
surrounding yourself with positive influences
sleeping well


Psychological counselling can help patients with anxiety using Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBI). This method is used ti help alter the way the patients think negatively and stress that triggers anxiety symptoms. Communicating with metal health care professionals, psychiatrists, social workers, and counsellors may also help patients with anxiety.


If an individual is experiencing anxiety due to a physicality that is not correctly arrange, surgery is able to alter that. Some medications that help patients with anxiety include:

Benzodiazepines are no longer prescribed as it used to be, as it is very addictive. Some medications include:

How to prevent anxiety

Reducing caffeine intake, chocolate, tea, and cola will help prevent anxiety. Abstaining from alcohol and cannabis will also help prevent anxiety.
(Nawal Ahmed)


Jullieet's Sources
1. Henig, Robin Marantz. (2009) Understanding the anxious mind The New York Times. (Retrieved from
2. Jacofsky, Matthew D. Psy.D., Santos, Melanie T. Psy.D., Khemlani-Patel, Sony. Ph.D., & Neziroglu, Fugen Ph.D (date n/a). Biological explainations of anxiety disorders. gracepoint: The source for wellness. (Retrieved from
3. Jacofsky, Matthew D. Psy.D., Santos, Melanie T. Psy.D., Khemlani-Patel, Sony. Ph.D., & Neziroglu, Fugen Ph.D (date n/a). Symptoms of anxiety. gracepoint: The source for wellness. (Retrieved from
4. Bailey, Eileen (2010). What is “Fight or Flight” and how does it relate to anxiety?. Health Central. Retrieved from

Rahim's Sources

Jessica T's Sources

Nawal's Sources
1. Ameringen, Michael Van M.D., MacMillan, Harriet M.D., Mancini, Catherine, M.D. 199. Relationship of Childhood Sexual and Physical abuse to Anxiety Disorders Retrieved from (
2. Dang, Qianyu, Herbert, Randy S., Schulz, Richard. 2006. Preparedness for the Death of a Loved One and Mental Health in Bereaved Caregivers of Patients with Dementia: Findings form the REACH study Retrieved from (
3. O'Neil, Dennis. 1998-2012. Adapting to High Altitude Retrieved from (
4. Creagan, Edward T. 2011. Coping with stress after natural disasters Retrieved from (
5. Armstrong, Tonya D., Costello, E. Jane. 2012. Community studies on adolescent substance use, abuse, or dependence and psychiatric comorbidity Retrieved from (

Brandon's Sources
1 Knapp, J. R., & Delprato, D. J. (1980). Willpower, behavior therapy, and the public. The Psychological Record, 30(4), 477-482. Retrieved from
2 Karasu, S. (2004). Feeling strong: The achievement of authentic power. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 58(2), 238-239. Retrieved from
3 Wik, T. (2011). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. People and Strategy, 34(4), 66-67. Retrieved from

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