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The Purpose of Fear

Having a little bit of fear is normal. Fear has helped keep our ancestors alive by creating quick and powerful responses to avoid dangerous situations. However, today we don’t necessarily find ourselves in the same conditions as early humans when the fear response is triggered. We might instead have fear of public speaking, fear of failure, or fear of rejection. These fears can often hinder us from achieving goals and living our best ideal life.

Fear is a powerful emotion and can become in some cases debilitating. Anxiety is a term often used for fear of future situations. Anxiety and fear can last for a short time or can linger for a long time and cause someone to get stuck in the cycle. The most common response to fear and anxiety is to avoid the situation causing it and while that might feel good at the moment if avoidance is continued the anxiety can increase. When avoiding fears, you are teaching your amygdala (the center of your brain that creates fear) that you are unable to handle them.

What is a Phobia?

A phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of a situation or an object. Phobias, unlike general anxiety disorders, are usually linked to something specific. Most people with phobias can recognize that their fear is irrational but lack the ability to do anything about it. These fears can disrupt work, personal relationships, and other life events.

How to Face your Fears

Evading something that we are afraid of can be tempting, but in the long run, can allow the fear to grow and become more difficult to face in the future. Instead of avoidance, we can slowly expose ourselves to situations we fear, then we can start to conquer them and feel more in control.

One helpful strategy is to name and categorize your fears. Most people fear what they don’t know so if we take time to understand the cause of the fear we might begin to rationalize. For example, if someone has a fear of flying sometimes understanding how the plane works and why there is turbulence can ease the uncertainty. Learning that turbulence is the movement of air influencing the aircraft and, if you obey the fasten seatbelt sign, poses a little threat. Addressing your fears and sorting them numerically from scariest to least scary can allow you to figure out which fears to slowly work on. It is best to start with the least scary fears and begin gradually working through them.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT) focuses on addressing and changing negative thought patterns, beliefs, and cognitive distortions. CBT is beneficial in encouraging patients to face their fears with exposure treatment. This form of therapy gradually exposes the patients to their fears. For example, if someone has a fear of public speaking a form of CBT might be to practice first in the mirror, then with a trusted friend or family member, and then gradually increase the number of people till the day that person has to go up in front of a crowd.

CBT also combats fear by having you challenge your thoughts and cognitive distortions. For example, if you are afraid of working out in public because you think people will laugh or judge you. CBT will ask you to pause and challenge that thought. Why do you think they would laugh or judge you? Do you judge or laugh at people that are exercising? With these confronting questions, you can navigate through situations that might have once caused fear but now you are able to conquer.

Seeking Help

While there are numerous tips and tricks to gradually combat fear and anxiety, there might be times when fear becomes debilitating. If you feel like you are not having any success with facing fear on your own, we encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. Most mental health professionals are trained in many forms of therapy to help confront fears and allow you to live the life you desire. Sometimes along with beneficial therapy, the discussion of medication to help aid emotional and physical reactions to fear can allow you to move past difficult conflicts. If you or someone you love feel like fear is ruling your life please reach out, we are always here to help.

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