Dread means to anticipate with great apprehension or fear. All of us understand the fear aspect of dread, but an overlooked one is the “anticipation.” This aspect is as important to the definition of dread as the word fear. Dread almost always relates to future events—the worsening of a situation or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable.
It has been found that this feeling of dread is as bad or worse than actually confronting or experiencing the dreaded event. This is especially true when it comes to fear of pain. The psychological stress and distraction it places on the mind causes greater distress than actually feeling pain.
Overcoming Fear by Confronting It
The fear of pain is often the reason people choose to avoid going to the dentist. It’s also the reason why others choose to confront the pain head on and as quickly as possible. These people know—consciously or unconsciously—that the fear is worse than the pain.
The Imperial College London conducted a study into the nature of fear and pain. The head researcher Dr. Giles Story subjected 35 participants to a test. He asked them to choose between electric shocks of different intensities occurring at different times.
A few of the participants elected to avoid the pain by delaying the more intense shocks until the end. The majority—71 per cent of tests—chose to receive the pain earlier, even though that meant a more intensely painful stimulus. Researchers found similar results when they asked participants to choose between dental appointments of varying levels of pain.
A Change in Psychology
Most of us, if not all, have experienced this “let’s get it over with” approach to pain. This kind of mentality seems to go against previously established psychology. For instance, Dr. Story says:
“When people are offered a reward, they prefer to have it as soon as possible, which could be interpreted to mean that we rate future experiences as less important when we’re making decisions. This reasoning would suggest that you would put off unpleasant things to the future as well.”
The latter choice was followed by a minority in all parts of the study. The researchers also ran some other tests. They utilized human brain imaging to study dread’s impact on cognition. The images supported the existence of dread within the brain, but more specific details could not be derived.
Another interesting aspect of responses to pain involves personality. Prior research has shown that introverts report more pain than extroverts. That could serve as a good reason to become more outgoing and confident. Maybe one could become so extroverted that they’d no longer feel pain.
Dr. Potts is a gentle, caring dentist who uses the most advanced materials and procedures available. He practices comfortable, health-centered dentistry, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each patient. In addition to his technical proficiency, Dr. Potts is a careful listener. He makes sure to understand what you want and will explain beforehand what treatment is best for your individual needs, along with all options available to you. Check out our Twitter, Facebook page, and website.