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“The feeling of fear during life changes, and the implications to subjective well-being”.

believe-IN conducted, at Glasgow Caledonian University, the first known research study on the lived experience of fear during life-changing events. The goal of this study was to describe for the first time, the subjective experience of fear, during life-changing events, in adulthood.

Research  Study Conclusions (short)

Adult development entails unavoidable stress-inducing Life Changes and Transitions, which challenges an individual’s functioning, health, sense of self-worth and well-being. Life Changes are studied as a type of stressor, yet it is not known what contributes as a risk factor predisposing the individual to develop psychological declines. This research argues it is the experience of "feeling of fear" that it is capable of bringing light to the matter.

Stress is recognizably a significant experience in Changes and Transitions. Life Changes not only bring life changes or endings of psychosocial structures, but they might also lead the individual to Transition. When it does, the process of disengagement from the old self to build a new identity makes these periods potentially traumatic, of significant instability, stress and anxiety inducing and the danger of psychological declines.

Findings confirm the ‘feeling fear’ to have personal significance, behavioural and physiological responses. Chiefly, the feeling of fear is the precursor of stress and anxiety. Moreover, in a nutshell, it has been observed  that the mind, time (it “can reach years”), identity change, personal growth, other emotions interaction, other people´s influence and decreased well-being are all relevant components of  the experience during Life Changes.

Themes Identified

  • The Mind (“Mind” is the “Commander” of the experience).

  • Identity Change

  • Behavioural and Physiological Aspects

  • Well-being & Other People impacts

  • Personal Growth & Emotions Arousal

The ‘Feeling of Fear’ during Life Changes is a continual presence. The Mind is at the commands for protection of the self-identity (that is changing). It impacts subjective well-being. It is influenced (negatively, and positively) by social interactions. Arouses various emotions simultaneously, and correlates to identity change.

Fear, it felt alive!” The Mind, the “Commander” for the protection and renewal of self-identity! The positive gain is personal growth.


(feeling fear during Life Changes)

Feeling the fear is a continual presence during life changes. The Mind is at the command of the experience for protection of the self-identity. During change, people feel as if in a dark place, that is filled with emptiness and unknown. Yet, wanting to meet knowledge once the known (old) reality no longer exists.

In this situation, the feeling of fear triggers stress and anxiety as a response to novelty.

Márcia Pinho,

believe-IN. Make it Happen! ®



Lived experience of fear reported by seven females, three males age range 38-58 years old (mean = 46.7), with no mental health disorder.


Major Life Changes reported:

  • breast cancer

  • bereavement

  • divorce/relationships break up

  • employment, career change

  • sudden disability

  • country relocation

  • and more life-events, as participants reported concurrent life change events happening as a result of a major one

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