Nerve | Eva Holland

Summary of: Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear
By: Eva Holland


Fear can grip and paralyze us, but is it possible to overcome it through psychology and science? ‘Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear’, by Eva Holland, is a part memoir, part history, and part scientific inquiry that delves deep into the nature and origins of fear. As you read this book summary, explore critical topics such as fear responses, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), exposure therapy, and the effectiveness of various treatments. Discover how Holland, inspired by her own fears, embarked on a journey that might instill hope in those seeking to conquer their own fears and live a life unbounded by terror’s barriers.

Conquering Fear

Eva Holland’s book explores the nature of fear and its origins through a combination of memoir, history, and scientific inquiry. Holland knows fear intimately, from a fear of heights to terror about driving that came on after multiple car wrecks. These paled in comparison to her primary, visceral fear that her mom would die. When Holland’s worst nightmare came true, she sought to discover if she could conquer her fear through psychology and science. The book provides an insightful and hopeful guide to anyone who seeks to overcome their fears.

Overcoming Fear

Eva Holland’s life-changing message from a fisheries officer on a canoe trip in Northwestern British Columbia prompts her to confront her fears. Her mother’s death leaves her paralyzed with fear, which she overcomes by investigating ways to beat her fears.

The Anatomy of Fear

Fear is a natural part of being alive, but it differs from anxiety. Doctors have been trying to alleviate patients’ fears since the time of Hippocrates. In Southeast Asia’s Hmong culture, fear takes the form of a nightmare demon that causes nocturnal death syndrome.

Understanding Emotions and Feelings

Author Holland draws from neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s work to explain the difference between emotions and feelings and how they relate to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Emotions are physical reactions to stimuli while feelings are subjective experiences. In PTSD, past experiences can trigger an inappropriate response to safe situations. Holland breaks down the neural pathways and bodily processes involved in emotional responses, detailing how messages travel from the brain to the body and how the sympathetic nervous system reacts. This informative passage provides readers with a clear understanding of the mechanisms behind our emotional experiences.

Conquering Fear with Exposure Therapy

The book discusses how Holland overcame her fear of heights through exposure therapy. By confronting heights repeatedly, she was able to build a new neural structure that helped her stay calm in anxiety-inducing situations. The book highlights psychiatrist Edna Foa’s theory on how repeated exposure helps build a new neural structure. If one remains calm during a fearful encounter, a new structure forms, supplanting the old. The author emphasizes that just facing one’s fear is not enough; one must experience the fear-inducing stimulus and remain calm to build a new neural structure.

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