19 Jan

Paralyzing Fears: Are Phobias Limiting Your Enjoyment of Life?

When we struggle with a fear or phobia, in that moment, it can be hard to understand how it may affect the “big picture.”

All we can do when we begin to experience that fear is focus on what’s causing it and to do something about it.

Yet, phobias and coping with them can greatly impact your quality of life.

Always Planning, Always Worried

When we have a phobia, even if we are not experiencing it at that moment, we are always worrying about the next time it may happen. For instance, let’s say you have a fear of getting a panic attack. Just to get up, get going in the morning, and make it to work can be quite a chore. Why?

Because you may be preoccupied with:

  • Worrying about what other people think of you
  • Fear of germs so you wash your hands frequently
  • Nagging and repetitive thoughts that swirl around in your head
  • Worried you might fail an important test

Always worrying and planning can use up a lot of energy. This means that when you need your brain to function the most (at home, at the office) you are always running at less than efficiency, which makes it harder to both get things done and to relax as well.

Needing Rituals

When the fear and anxiety of a phobia does strike, you may often need to perform a ritual of some type to calm the fear. In the above example, the washing of hands helps lower the fear of getting sick.

Other rituals include:

  • Checking that the door is locked several times”
  • Repeating a saying or phrase for fear that something “bad” will happen
  • Counting things
  • Pacing

The belief usually is that by doing the ritual, we can make sure that whatever bad could happen doesn’t occur. Yet, these rituals can take up a lot of time in our day, and we miss out on doing more pleasurable activities.

Feeling Judged

Social phobias can be particularly difficult because they limit our ability to make positive connections with other people. When we are in a social situation it can be very difficult to interact with others, especially those whom we don’t know. We may feel as if they are judging us, or we are afraid of being rejected.

For instance, let’s say you need to make a speech at a wedding, but you are afraid that the audience will silently be criticizing you. Instead of getting the acceptance you need from human contact, you may try to avoid being judged by shutting yourself off to the world.

Afraid to Explore:

Agoraphobia, which is often considered to be fear of open spaces, can majorly restrict your life as well. To cope with this fear, many people will stay in their homes and are too afraid to venture out into the world. Why? Because it feels safer to be at home versus out in the world where something bad could happen.

This means that instead of enjoying all of the richness, beauty, and adventure the world offer, you rather stay cooped up in your home.

Afraid to Travel:

One of the joys in life is being able to travel and explore new places. To get there, we often need to fly on a plane. However, if you have a fear of flying, this greatly limits your options.

Maybe this phobia exists for you because of the fear that something bad will happen on the plane, such as it crashing. The takeoff, the landing, and every little bump along the way may just make it impossible for you to want to step into an airport. Thus, our options for seeing the world and traveling become more limited.

So what can we do about these fears? Seeking out counseling and working with a therapist can, over time, help you to address these problems. That, in turn, will allow you the opportunity to have a more fulfilling and enriching life—free of fear!