When Irrational Fears take over your Life
You don't want to do this. You swore you'd never put yourself through this again. No one understands, they are all so normal going about their everyday life, no idea of what you are feeling. You can feel your heart beating like crazy through your chest. Your hands are sweaty, legs are wobbly and you feel like the world is spinning. Yes...you are about to step inside...an ELEVATOR!
Does this sound like you? Because it sure sounds like me. Elevators scare me. They have scared me since before I could even care to remember. I have no idea why. Well, that is not entirely true - I know they are quite small and confined. I know they are mechanical, therefore, can break down. I also know that if it did happen to break down while I was in it, the guy on the other end of the rescue phone would be on his lunch break. Just writing this makes me feel icky. I mean, sure it is scary to think it could happen - but to insist on climbing 10 flights of stairs to get to a specialist who I was visiting to examine my twisted hips - now that's irrational.
What is an irrational fear?
An irrational fear is also known as a phobia. It is usually quite common with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferers and is classed as an anxiety disorder. Usually the individual knows that they should not fear this person, place or thing so much. Clowns, anyone? *shudder* ... moving right along ...
Human beings are all born with two natural fears. The fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Every other fear is learned. Most people have a fear about one thing or another. Spiders, snakes, fire - we have these fears because it is human instinct. We fear these things because they are dangerous and could potentially kill us. Plus, spiders are just plain creepy. We fear bad things happening like car accidents or our loved ones dying. Again that is natural, but if you are fearing any of these excessively you may have an underlying anxiety disorder that may need to be discussed with your doctor.
An irrational fear is a fear of something that most other people do not even think to fear. It can also be a normal fear taken to extreme. For example, most people are afraid of heights, but never visiting friends because they live on the 10th floor of their building - that's irrational. And how about a fear others would never think to have? I have a fear of water running from a tap, so slow you can barely hear it, then having it turned on again really hard. I know, weird. These types of fears are a lot more common than people realise; people normally just don't talk about them.
Why do I fear?
Fears are very personal to the fear-er, therefore, they are not so easy to explain. The fear of heights probably comes from the human need to feel "grounded". Same with flying, it is natural for us to feel fear because we are not born with wings. Unusual fears can be from a subconscious childhood memory and is just a small part of the whole event that was witnessed. Some people believe unexplained fear is part of past life regression, the experiences we felt and even how we died, if you believe in that yourself. Again, each fear is personal and there is normally no simple explanation as to why it manifests inside.
Do I have an Irrational Fear?
Fear can show itself in numerous different forms, but there are ways you will realise that what you are fearing is considered irrational to most people (and most likely, even yourself).
- Others seem unaffected by what you are fearing. If it is not an obvious fear, the people around you will not realise you are afraid by what you are experiencing, as they themselves are feeling no fear. You will know it is an irrational fear because the person next to you is going about their every day life without a second thought about it. For example, you are on a train, approaching a tunnel. You feel your hands sweat, heart race and panic strike. Others around you are busy texting, reading or talking, presumably unaware of the tunnel until they are inside and unaffected still even then.
- Avoidance of the situation. Do you need a blood sample taken? Are you doing anything to avoid it, even if this means a possible risk to your health? This is certainly a sign that you have an underlying fear of needles, possibly blood or even a fear of the arm band (or maybe even nurses!!). You will avoid this situation, or others, by any extreme measure you can think of taking.
- Cold sweats, clammy hands, woozy feeling. As you are approaching this dreaded situation, you will start to feel these warning signs. Your body may go into "fight or flight" mode, normally reserved for a real life emergency situation. I must tell you though that running away from your friends new pot plant, or "Botanophobia", is not a common fight or flight type situation and this phobia may need to be addressed!
- Performing your own rituals to eliminate the fear. If you suffer with "Dromophobia", which is a fear of crossing the street, you might also perform a ritual before you need to cross that said street. For example, on approaching the street you will start to feel the cold sweats, wobbly legs etc. To calm yourself down you may have taught yourself to tap your leg discreetly 3 times, which will calm you down enough to then cross over the street. This is a symptom of OCD and sufferers have many different types of rituals they perform to calm a situation down in their head.
If you are feeling these symptoms and you feel it is getting out of control, please seek a professional opinion. If your loved ones are expressing their concern about their own fears, please assist them in getting the help they need.
Types of Fears/Phobias
Here are the some of the most common types of fears/phobias the population may experience. You most likely have one of these, or know someone with the fear:
- Claustrophobia: This is the very common fear of closed and confined spaces. People with this fear will tend to not like riding in elevators, being in a sunbed and may need their doors or windows slightly ajar.
- Agoraphobia: Is the fear of open spaces and crowds. A person suffering severe Agoraphobia will probably not leave their home for the fear of something happening upon leaving their "safe place".
- Altophobia: This means having a fear of heights. Again, very common and most people will have even just a slight fear of heights. It becomes irrational however when you will refuse to go to "that meeting" on the 22nd floor. Most people with Altophobia are also afraid of flying.
- Arachnophobia: Fear of the 8-legged critters, the spider. Most spiders are not too harmful to humans though and can even be an asset to your garden by catching those pesky flying insects. That will not stop most people from getting the spray out on them however.
- Zoophobia: This is an intense fear of animals. This could have emerged within from a horrible childhood experience with the neighbours' dog or could be a fear you have no idea why is there.
- Homophobia: A fear of homosexuals. What a silly phobia.
And here is a few of the lesser known fears/phobias out there:
- Ebulliophobia: This is a fear of bubbles. My son was afraid for a very short time of bath bubbles and would scream when he couldn't wash them off, as if he was being attacked by them.
- Nomophobia: A fear of being out of mobile phone coverage. This would be an extremely common (but not acknowledged) fear of our times. I know if I am out of coverage I do fret and wonder how it was all done 20 years ago.
- Gynophobia: A fear of women. Fine then. Get off my hub!
- Lipophobia: A fear of fats in foods. I do not have this fear. Sometimes I think it would be nice though!
- Turophobia: The intense fear of cheese. Again, I do not have this one.
- Caligynephobia: A fear of beautiful women. Please refer to Gynophobia.
- Porphyrophobia: Fear of the colour purple. The actual colour, not the movie.
- Chorophobia: Fear of dancing. I know a lot of people who really should have this fear, but to my amusement they do not.
I have the fear...Now what do I do?
If you find yourself gripped by fear every day, you are probably suffering an anxiety disorder that needs to be addressed. Any person, place or thing can become a fear for someone, somewhere. When that fear is disrupting your quality of life it has become irrational. You can see your family doctor and hopefully get a referral to speak to a specialist. There may be an under-lying reason to why you have such an intense fear of free-standing bookshelves. Perhaps one fell on you as a child, or you saw it happen in a movie once. There may not always be an explanation though and it could just be a fear you have always had.
There are many self help books out there about combating your fear head on. Small steps for each fear to eventually overcome it or at least lessen it. There have been many people who have been helped by "Bach Rescue Remedy" for controlling their nerves. I know myself, with my fear of elevators, this is one I do not think will leave me. I make sure now that, where possible, I take the elevator with other people. I will only go in one by myself if it looks fairly new. I try not to let it take over my life because sometimes I really need to get to the 5th floor.
A fear of heights, for example, need not cripple you every time you have to cross a footbridge.
- If you are with someone, explain your fear and hold their hand as you walk across.
- Hold onto the railing if this helps, although for some that is just to close to the edge so walking in the middle may be quicker and more efficient.
- Look up and straight ahead. Resist all urges to look down.
- Concentrate on your breathing, don't hyperventilate!
In a building, try going up to the first floor and looking out the window. Take every floor up one at a time and take the time to have a look at the view. This may help you. If you also have a fear of elevators this could help that, taking one floor at a time. Visiting Paris? If you really want to go up the Eiffel Tower, maybe just go to the first level; the top may be asking too much. Although some people with a fear prefer being even higher because it almost doesn't seem real. The first level could be more terrifying for them than the top!
Every person has a fear of some type. Some people have an intense fear of heights, flying and falling so they do a skydiving course and overcome their fear. Everyone is different and not every solution will work for everyone. There are many people out there to help with your fear and help you to continue living a happy life. I hope you can find them and, in time, overcome your fears.
Please comment and let us all know your crazy, irrational fear!