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 merely submitting to fear and magnifying it. It is important to keep in mind that fear was a significant evolutionary emotion for the human species throughout history; it helped our ancestors protect themselves for tens of thousands of years and in some cases it still 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. With that being said, more than 24% of Americans suffer from a significant specific fear which they experience at least once a week. This includes fear of heights, fear of being in enclosed or small spaces, fear of insects, fear of flying, and so on. However, they don’t consider it dangerous or a cause for concern since they found a way to "solve the problem“. In actuality, they are avoiding it. In this article, we will discuss why avoidance is bad for you. We will also discuss why facing your fears and overcoming them will benefit 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. Break 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. Boost your confidence - by dealing with your fears you can improve your general mood, as you boost your self-perception, self-confidence, and a sense of accomplishment; all merely as a result of facing your fears.
4. Your dreams will become reality - surrendering to our fears sometimes leads us to give up on our dreams and things we’ve always dreamed of, 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 most precious experiences if you keep avoiding them. Your fear of heights may subconsciously keep you away from amusement parks, skydiving, or visiting many of the world’s amazing places. Your fear of cockroaches, spiders, snakes, or other “harmless” living creatures can affect your willingness to stay in nature, or be at ease outdoors. The same applies for almost any type of fear that you can think of, as long as you avoid it and 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. Avoid 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 with the kids, or even the camping trip you skipped or had ruined by your fears. When you train to face your fears you avoid unnecessary regrets.
7. It's a great example - by facing your fears you can serve as an example for those around you - spouses, children, close friends - and encourage them to do the same. When your children see you overcome your fear they will learn not to shy away from facing their own.
8. You'll experience 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 cause you fear or anxiety today, as you learn to experience them as excitement. The unpleasant feeling of fear, anxiety and avoidance will be replaced with excitement and positivity.
9. Eliminate blind spots in your life experience - every fear we refuse to face leads to avoidance (which is usually much more serious than we think), and this leads to creating a "blind spot" in our lives. By facing these fears, you will be able to remove these dark spots in your life, and live it to the fullest.
So the fears you experience are part of an important evolutionary mechanism that helps and protects us. However, anxiety, avoidance, and the feeling that we can’t change it, can be dealt with relatively easily.
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