How to avoid high-risk situations

Fear lives in the brain. Big Think outlines the way fear operates in the brain. Here, we look at some of those processes and how they relate to the process of addiction.


The thalamus is the communication center between the body and the brain. When the body receives a stimulus, like burning your finger on the stove, the signals for pain and pain relief go through the thalamus. We don’t often think that these sort of reactions go through a process because they happen so instantaneously. In discussions about the neuroscience of addiction, the thalamus isn’t discussed all that often. Currently, little research exists on how the thalamus might be affected by addiction. Certainly the addict and the alcoholic continue to experience fear, even though what they are afraid of and how they react to external stimuli changes. Where fear goes next, the amygdala, tends to get more attention.


The amygdala is discussed in discussing addiction and the neuroscience of mental health because it regulates fear and tension. After signals are received in the thalamus, fear can go one of two ways, according to the article. If the amygdala is alerted by the thalamus, that means that fear has taken the less desirable of the two ways available, indicating that the fear is imminent and real. It means that the stimulus is life threatening and immediate. Addiction is both life threatening and immediately threatening with every drink and drug. However, the amygdala gets altered by addiction. Instead of recognizing taking more alcohol and drugs as life threatening, the brain believes that not taking more alcohol and drugs would be life threatening. The whole process can feel quite emotional, which is why many addicts relate to losing drugs and alcohol like losing a friend. That is because of how the hypothalamus becomes involved.


Addiction can feel as though it lives in the body. When you experience a craving for drugs and alcohol, you feel it everywhere. Part of the physiological reaction is due to the process of fear in the brain. Since fear becomes part of cravings, because the brain thinks not taking drugs and alcohol would be life threatening, it becomes physical. The hypothalamus instructs the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and send blood rushing to the muscles in order to avert danger.

There are a lot of unknowns in recovery, which can create a lot of fears. You don’t have to be afraid of recovery. Sound Recovery Solutions offers partial care programs and stabilization services which help create a lifetime of recovery. For more information, call (561) 666-7427.

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