By Maryse IsmaSpecial to CSMS MagazineWe generally understand that a chronic fear of failure can be detrimental to our careers or personal relationships. But recently, scientists have discovered that such negative feelings take a serious toll on physical health, as well.Adrenaline and CatecholaminesFor better or worse, every thought in our head—positive or negative—affect our internal biochemistry. Fear, worry, self-doubt and other emotional “downers” do much of their behind-the-scenes damage by stepping up secretion of adrenaline and other hormones called catecholamines. Even in individuals with perfectly normal hearts, catecholamines can trigger a condition called paroxysmal tachycardia—skipped or rapid heartbeat. This has been linked to sudden death. Elevated catecholamines also boost cholesterol levels and blood pressure.Increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Over time, chronically elevated levels of catecholamines raise the heart metabolism, forcing it to work harder. The same chemicals reduce the body’s out of insulin production raises the risk of both diabetes and arteriosclerosis. A steady flow of catecholamines also erodes the inner lining of small blood vessels. The vascular “potholes” resulting from the erosion fill up easily with platelets and cholesterol—even if cholesterol levels in the body are normal. Our fear of failure can help cholesterol at peak levels for long periods of time. Illustration: Cholesterol levels of medical students remain high even weeks after major exams. Chronic worry also wreaks havoc on the immune system, reducing the effectiveness of our protective T-cells. Anxiety can also stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete more cortisol, setting the stage for peptic ulcersChanging our PerceptionsTo counteract the potentially deadly fear of failure, we must change our perceptions. Key: Realizing that failure itself is an unavoidable fact of life. Each and every one of us has stumbled at some time or other. But that doesn’t make failures. Even a long string of setbacks or mistakes doesn’t qualify us for this sweeping, negative label. The scripts of our lives are filled with failures are unhappy scenes as well as successful and joyful ones. Helpful: Replay and savor the positive scenes. Don’t dwell on the negative scenes. Review negative scenes only long—and then move on. People who view themselves as failures or chronic worries are simply stuck in their negative scenes. They can’t put the script and move on to another page, so to speak. A vicious cycle ensues, as the belief that are failures and the constant fear of failing again discourage them from trying new experiences or persevering at tasks that can lead to more positive results. That holds true for their health, their careers and their relationships. Also see Are Your Immunizations UP-to-Date?