7 Tips For Overcoming Irrational Fears
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated May 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC
Everyone's afraid of something. And a lot of people have common fears, such as the fear of dying, public speaking, or snakes and spiders. But, there's a big difference between being afraid of some things and having nonrational fears impacting your life. If you struggle in this area, some tips can help you overcome nonrational fears.
According to the NIMH, "Around 12 percent of people will experience a phobia at some point in their lives." And, if you don't know how to deal with that phobia or fear properly, it can keep you trapped. This is why it's important to learn how to address and overcome non-rational fears.
What Are Irrational Fears?
Medical News Today has a very simple and easy to understand the definition of phobias or nonrational fears:
"A phobia is an exaggerated and nonrational fear."
When it comes to mental health disorders, there are several different diagnoses for nonrational fears. They include things like specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia.
Specific phobias are nonrational fears that are triggered by one specific thing. This could be a fear of heights, fear of public speaking, or a fear of flying. These are just examples, and there is an endless amount of things that someone can have a specific phobia about.
Social phobia is also known as social anxiety. This is when people deal with the fear of being judged by others in social situations. This fear keeps people from participating in things they might enjoy because they are afraid of interaction with others in a social gathering.
Agoraphobia is when people are afraid of being in a place where it's difficult to escape. This could be a large open area or a very small and confined place. Around 18 million adults in the United States struggle with agoraphobia.
How Are Irrational Fears Different Than Regular Fears
A fear moves from regular to irrational when it impacts your ability to function in your daily life. This could be that you purposely do things or purposely avoid things to avoid your fear of trigger.
So, while everyone is afraid of things if your fear of a spider doesn't get in the way of your normal life and it's not something that you organize your life around, it's not a nonrational fear. However, if you avoid going to holiday parties with your family because you have a fear of judgment from the people that will be at the event, you have an irrational fear that should be confronted and overcome.
The Importance Of Overcoming Irrational Fears
If you're struggling with fear, it's easy to think that you don't need to work on confronting it. No one likes to be in uncomfortable situations, and confronting fears probably makes you feel uncomfortable. However, you must learn how to overcome these nonrational fears so you can live a healthy and balanced life.
If you're in the habit of arranging your life around your fears, there are things that you're missing out on that you could be enjoying. And, if you're in a relationship with other people, your nonrational fears can damage your relationship. You can allow your fears to stop other people from doing things that they would enjoy.
Tips On Overcoming Nonrational Fears
So, now that you know what nonrational fears are and why you should work on overcoming them, here are some tips to help you out.
1. Give Exposure Therapy A Try
Exposure therapy is exactly like it sounds. It works by exposing you little by little to the thing that you are afraid of. The important thing to know about exposure therapy, though, is it's not the same as just confronting your nonrational fear head-on.
So, for example, if you're irrationally afraid of heights, you wouldn't just go skydiving. Instead, you would work on exposing yourself to the smallest height until you grow to be more comfortable with it. Then you move onto the next step by moving up the rungs of the ladder. Slowly over time, you start to become more comfortable with each step, which allows you to take another one.
Exposure therapy is exposing yourself little by little, one step at a time. This is something that you can try doing on your own, or you can enlist the help of a licensed and trained therapist.
2. Identify And Acknowledge Your Fear
There's a chance that you haven't fully confronted and identified your nonrational fear. It's probably something that you try not to think about and work on avoiding. But, if you want to overcome that fear, it can be them to identify what your fear is and where it's coming from.
This is going to involve thinking through why you have that fear. It might be that you had a bad experience with something similar in the past or that one of your parents also had a nonrational fear and pass it down to you. Sometimes, identifying what is causing the fear can help you know the best way to overcome it.
3. Go Easy On Yourself
Being judgmental with yourself about your fear is not going to help you overcome it. If you have been mentally beating yourself up about your fear, it's time to accept it and let it go.
Every person has things that they struggle with, and if you are knocking yourself down because of your fear, it's not going to help you overcome them. Go easy on yourself and give yourself a break. Accept that you have the fear and accept that there are things you can do to overcome it. It's not something that you have to live with long-term.
4. Don't Allow Your Feelings To Control You
You must learn how to control your feelings if you're going to learn how to overcome your nonrational fear. Just because you feel afraid of something does not mean that there is something actually to be afraid of. Your feelings lie to you. You mustn't allow yourself to be controlled by your feelings but instead that you learn how to control your feelings.
This doesn't mean that you try to ignore the way that you're feeling. You must be able to acknowledge what you're experiencing with your feelings and emotions. But, it's also important that you think clearly about the situation and see if your feelings are being truthful or not.
5. Learn To Control Your Thoughts
Not only do you need to learn how to control your feelings, but you also need to learn how to control your thoughts. Your feelings and thoughts are linked closely together. If you allow yourself to think that something is dangerous and that there is a reason to be afraid of it, your feelings will follow that.
So, to learn how to control your feelings, you have to start controlling your thoughts and choosing them carefully. If you struggle with having the same fearful thoughts repeatedly, it can be helpful to pre-choose some things that you will think about instead. Then, anytime you find yourself having those old thoughts again, you can instantly replace them with something else.
It can also be helpful to write these pre-chosen thoughts down on a piece of paper and keep them close. If you find that you are starting to get stuck in fear and worry, you can pull that sheet of paper out and start reading through the things that are good thoughts for you instead.
6. Celebrate Your Success
It's not easy to overcome irrational thoughts and fears. So, while you're working on doing that, you must learn how to celebrate the success that you're having along the way.
For example, it might not be a big deal to other people to climb up two rungs of a ladder, but if you have a nonrational fear of heights, this could be major for you. So, treat it that way. Reward yourself and celebrate the progress that you're making at overcoming your nonrational fears.
7. Find A Support Group
It can help when you have supportive people along your journey to overcoming your fears. This could be having family and friends that understand how big your fear is that will be able to celebrate with you along the way as you make progress.
Or, this could be a group, even an online group of people dealing with overcoming the same fears. This can be helpful because they will understand what you're going through and feel the same things you're feeling. This can also help you know that you're not alone, which is a comforting feeling.
When You Should Talk To A Therapist
If your nonrational fears are getting in the way of your regular life, you must address them. If you cannot progress on overcoming them on your own, therapy can help you make progress. As mentioned above, exposure therapy is an effective way to overcome nonrational fears. However, other therapy options can help you as well. The best way to find out what treatment options will work well for you is to contact a therapist and let them know what you're struggling with and what you're trying to do.
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