The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 12.5% of Americans suffer from a specific phobia but much more suffer from repetitive fear which is not diagnosed as a phobia. In adolescents the number is even higher and is estimated to be at 19.3%. The crazy part is that the vast majority (over 77%) aren’t treating their fears for a variety of reasons such as: lack of financial ability, time, or awareness.
Others believe they have “figured out how to deal with their fears” through avoidance, believing they have “cracked” the method.
Avoidance is not a solution, it is submitting to fear and magnifying it. It’s important to keep in mind that fear is was a significant evolutionary emotion for us humans; it helped our ancestors protect themselves for tens of thousands of years and in some cases it helps us avoid risk and injury. In modern times, we do not need to be constantly on the alert for lions that will devour us, or another tribe coming to attack us - an understandable evolutionary fear differs from a daily specific fear. We live in a civilized world where actual daily dangers are very small, and the vast majority aren’t even life-threatening. Nevertheless, more than 24% of Americans suffer from a significant specific fear that they experience at least once a week, such as fear of heights, fear of being in enclosed or small spaces, fear of insects, fear of flying, and so forth. However, they don’t consider it dangerous or a need for concern since they “found a way to solve the problem,“. In actuality, it’s just avoidance. The purpose of this article is to help you understand why avoidance is bad for you, and that facing your fears and overcoming them is beneficial to you and your environment on all health, social, and mental levels.
1. You'll gain momentum in life - by facing your fears you’ll gain momentum, which will enable you to deal with more complex situations in the future
2. Stop the vicious cycle - The more you avoid the source of your fear, the scarier it becomes to you, which produces more fear, which causes even more extreme avoidance behaviors. Dealing with your fears will help you break this vicious cycle.
3. Improved feeling - by dealing with your fears you can improve your general mood, self-perception, self-confidence, and a sense of accomplishment as a result of dealing with fear.
4. Your dreams will become reality - surrendering to our fears sometimes leads us to lose our dreams and things we’ve always dreamed about, even if we convince ourselves this isn’t true. Don’t miss out! Whether it’s a fear of heights, the dark, or closed places, you could be missing some of life’s best experiences. Your fear of heights may subconsciously keep you away from amusement parks, skydiving, or visiting many of the world’s amazing places. It’s true that cockroaches, spiders, snakes, or other “harmless” fears can affect your willingness to stay in nature, your feeling of being at ease in nature. The same goes for almost any type of fear that you can think of, as long as you think it isn’t really bothering you.
5. Mental Resilience - Facing your fears helps you develop mental resilience, which is helpful in many other aspects of life for both you and your loved ones.
6. Avoidance of regrets - avoidance leads to regrets, and regrets lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. You might regret the trip you didn’t take, the Ferris wheel you didn’t ride on with the kids, or even the camping trip you avoided or had ruined. Avoid unnecessary regrets by facing your fears.
7. It's a great example - in facing your fears you can serve as an example for those around you - spouses, children, close friends - and encourage them to do the same.
8. You'll experience great excitement - not many people know that anxiety and excitement are quite similar physiological mechanisms, and by facing your fears you will be able to unleash your ability to enjoy the things that today cause you fear or anxiety, gaining twice as much. You will also no longer experience the unpleasant feeling of fear, anxiety and avoidance as you enjoy the feelings of excitement and positivity.
9. You will be able to remove blind spots from your life experiences - every fear we refuse to face leads to avoidances (which are usually greater than you think), which create a “black hole” in the way you live your life. By facing these fears, you will be able to remove these points of darkness from your life and live your life to the fullest. So the fears you experience are part of an important evolutionary mechanism that helps and protects us, but not anxiety, avoidance, and the feeling that we can’t change it, can be dealt with relatively easily.
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