You’re Never Too Old to Face Your Fears

“That which you think you cannot do, you MUST do.”   ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“Is your mom going on the ropes course?” I heard my daughter’s friend ask. I could feel beads of sweat forming. “Ohhhhh, nooooo,” I thought. “Nope, I don’t like heights, definitely not the plan.” Her friend said, “My mom would never do that. She’s too old.” My head snapped up. Wait! What did she say?!?! My daughter (who is awesome) said, “Well, my mom’s not old.” And there it was. I was going to conquer the ropes course… or die trying! It was indeed harrowing, but I nailed it.

Like many people, I have a fear of heights (acrophobia). Fear is normal, even helpful in potentially dangerous situations. Fear activates our “fight or flight” response systems. It’s an adaptive response whose purpose is to keep us safe. That must be the reason I never wanted to skydive. I mean, seriously, why would you want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?! But I digress. Fears, like anything else, only become a problem when they impede the enjoyment of new experiences, or even your daily life.

Fear can be non-specific or situational. But when a fear is associated with a specific object, class of objects, or situation, and is so intense as to be overwhelming, that is referred to as a phobia. Phobias are subjective, and their consequent reactions vary from person to person. Mild reactions include avoidance, mild anxiety, rapid heart rate and perspiration. At the other extreme, phobias can be so traumatic as to cause emotional meltdowns, panic attacks and emotional paralysis (shut down). Although the object of fear itself poses little or no actual threat to the individual, it is perceived as a very real danger.

There may come a time when you find your fears are limiting or prohibitive and you are missing out. The good news is that you are never too old to face your fears. The first thing to do is identify your phobia(s). Here are a few…

Phobia                                                Is the fear of…

Ablutophobia                                      bathing, washing, or cleaning

Acousticophobia                                 noise

Acrophobia                                         heights

Aerophobia                                         flying

Agoraphobia                                       open places

Aibohphobia                                       palindromes; words, phrases, numbers or other sequence of

characters which can be read the same backward or forward

Anthropophobia                                 people or the company of people, a form of social phobia

Arachnophobia                                  spiders

Chorophobia                                       dancing

Claustrophobia                                   small spaces

Cleithrophobia                                   being trapped

Coulrophobia                                      clowns

Cynophobia                                        dogs

Dentophobia                                       dentists and dental procedures

Entomophobia                                   insects

Enochlophobia                                    crowds

Glossophobia                                      speaking in public

Heliophobia                                        the sun or sunlight (aka vampire madness)

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia  the number 666

Hypnophobia                                     sleep

Lipophobia                                         fats in food

Mysophobia                                       germs, contamination or dirt (aka germophobic)

Nomophobia                                       being out of mobile phone contact

Nyctophobia                                       darkness

Pediophobia                                        dolls

Pogonophobia                                     beards

Spectrophobia                                     reflection and mirrors

Technophobia                                     technology

Telephobia                                          making or taking telephone calls

Triskaidekaphobia                              the number 13

Trypanophobia                                   needles or injections

Xenophobia                                        strangers, foreigners, or aliens

These are just some of literally hundreds of phobias. You probably recognized many and identified with a few. Most everyone is afraid of something in varying degrees. And although they are common, most will not cause distress or disrupt your everyday life. For example, if you are afraid of insects (entomophobia), you’re in luck! Most insects are dormant in the wintertime. Are you afraid of needles (trypanophobia) or the dentists (dentophobia)? Most people only see them once or twice a year. In that case, your phobias may not be a great concern.

If, however, your fear is of technology (technophobia) or making or taking calls (telephobia), to the extent that it is overwhelming…well, you may need to work on that. Most phobias can be easily managed by yourself by gradually and repeatedly exposing yourself to your fear while practicing self-soothing or relaxation techniques. These include soothing music, counting, aromatherapy, self-massage or just walking it off. Take it slowly and be patient with yourself. As you expose yourself to your fears, repeatedly and methodically remind yourself that you are okay. And give yourself an ‘atta boy.’ Gradually it will become easier until your fear is no longer a disruption. With this new sense of empowerment, you’ll be ready to make the most out of life!