How to Overcome Your Greatest Fears

Updated on August 26, 2017
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Kieron graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2000 with a Bachelors degree in Psychology.

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By definition, a phobia is an extreme fear of something. Sometimes this fear goes beyond what people would consider normal logic. The list of phobias that people experience on a daily basis is endless. Some are scared of heights, germs, enclosed spaces, dark areas, and spiders. Others are fearful of clowns, going outside, and flying. No matter what the fear stems from, the fact remains that it can cause some people a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Although it may feel hopeless when confronted with that fear, it is still possible to conquer your phobia. In order to do so, you will have to evaluate yourself, learn more about your fear, and possibly even put yourself in a few uncomfortable situations.

10 Common Phobias

Name of Phobia
What Is It?
Arachnophobia
Fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia
Fear of snakes
Acrophobia
Fear of heights
Agoraphobia
Fear of open spaces
Cynophobia
Fear of dogs
Astraphobia
Fear of thunderstorms
Claustrophobia
Fear of small spaces
Mysophobia
Fear of germs
Aerophobia
Fear of flying
Trypophobia
Fear of holes

Learn More About Your Fear

Sometimes the key to overcoming the fear of something is to learn more about it. In the process of educating yourself, take a moment to learn not only about the phobia but also find out more about the object or situation that scares you. For example if you have a deathly fear of snakes, try to find out more information about other people that also have snake phobias. Take it one step further and start learning more about snakes themselves. You may find that the more you learn about them, the less you fear them.

Educating yourself about fears helps in the following ways:

  • Learning about your actual phobia will allow you to see if there are any existing support groups or information available to help you overcome your fear. You can also search for any available solutions that you may not have tried yet.
  • Learning more about the object of your fear can help you to dispel any myths or falsehoods that you may have previously believed. In the course of educating yourself, you may find that you feared situations or behaviors that are not even possible or very unlikely to occur.

Ultimately, educating yourself will let you know if your fear is justified, and if so, what you can do to help lessen it in the future.

Figure Out When It Started

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One of the first things to try when attempting to overcome a fear is to find out exactly why and when it began. A lot of phobias are the result of negative past experiences, and as time goes on the event gets forgotten but the anxiety remains.

If you are somehow able to remember when your phobia started, try to look at it from your current perspective and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was it about the situation that made you feel so anxious?
  • Would this same situation scare you today, or were you just not able to fully process it at the time?
  • Was there any way you could have taken control of the situation? Would you be able to take control of that situation today?

After asking yourself these questions, you may find that a lot of the mystery surrounding your phobia is gone. Facing your fear on a daily basis may become a little bit easier once you establish exactly where it came from. On the flip side, your answers could end up causing you more distress once you know the true cause of your fear. If this is the case, you may need to consult a doctor or counselor for further help.

Do you remember the exact moment your greatest fear began?

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Tackle Your Phobia Head On

One of the best ways to work on getting over any type of fear is to confront it. Although initially it may cause a great deal of anxiety, eventually you may find yourself at a point where it does not stress you out as much.

A person's comfort zone is usually made up of the people, activities, and experiences that someone is used to seeing on a regular basis without feeling anxiety. Anything that causes fear or an immense amount of stress normally falls outside of that zone. As you recognize your own phobias, you begin to move any activities related to them outside of your comfort zone in order to avoid them.

However by purposefully confronting your fear, you can slowly cause your comfort zone to expand. Eventually things that used to scare you will become more routine and bearable. As the behaviors become more routine, the stress related to them will also start to disappear. Over time, you may notice that your comfort zone has expanded to the point that you no longer have your phobia.

Join a Support Group

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Sometimes people are able to get over hardships faster when they realize they are not in the struggle by themselves. Having other people to talk to and lean on can make dealing with a phobia more bearable.

In these situations, there are often support groups available for people experiencing specific phobias. These groups may meet face to face or take place as online forums. No matter what the format is, they allow people in similar situations to discuss the issues they are facing.

Some benefits of taking part in a support group:

  • They allow you to meet others dealing with the same phobia. They also give you strength knowing you are not the only one going through the ordeal.
  • They give you a chance to verbalize what your experience is like. Talking about your problem with others may help to relieve some of the anxiety that has built up inside.
  • They give you an opportunity to find out what other people have tried to fend off their phobias. The groups can be a great place to brainstorm ideas and to cross off techniques that may not have been so successful

Get Professional Help

If being in a support group or attempting to confront your fears on your own does not work, you may find it easier to go see a doctor or counselor. They may be able to assist you in one of the following ways:

  • They may help you to identify exactly when your phobia starts to occur, and what types of feelings you experience when it does occur. By learning what your "warning signs" are, the doctor can work with you on developing coping techniques to minimize the amount of stress you feel.
  • For those struggling to adjust their response on their own, the doctor may also be able to prescribe medication to lessen the amount of anxiety a person feels. While this may not allow you to completely conquer a phobia, it can enable you to function at a higher level when faced with one.

Dealing with fear is as much about how you respond to certain situations as it is about what is causing them. Although it may be difficult to try overcoming them, phobias can be conquered. With the right attitude, support from others, and knowledge of your phobia, you can make an overwhelming sense of fear a lot more tolerable.

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