Fear and anxiety not the same thing.

By David Joel Miller.

Confusing fear and anxiety cause you emotional pain.

When is fear real?

Fear, Anxiety, and Worry.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Many people are high in anxiety. They report that they are afraid of a great many things. To conquer anxiety, you need to learn the difference between the things you are afraid of, the ones you really should be afraid of, and the things that make you anxious for very personal reasons.

Recent research suggests that we may have been getting two different things confused.  While fear and anxiety may look a lot alike, the kind of behavior we do to defend ourselves, the circuits in the brain for these two things are quite different.

Fear is about an immediate danger.

Defensive behaviors are controlled in the human brain stem. The brainstem controls automatic reactions to things. It’s the part of the brain that keeps your heart beating when you fall asleep. Many fears are hardwired into the brainstem and function to protect humans from harm.

If you are too close to the edge of a cliff, and about to fall off, fear kicks in and tells you to step back. For most people avoiding falling off a cliff or from another high place keeps them from getting injured or even killed.

If you’re out in the wilderness, it is a good thing to be afraid of bears and lions, tigers and other wild animals. Most primates are instinctively afraid of snakes. Some steaks are poisonous and can kill you. Having an automatic fear eliminates the need to study the snake in front of you to determine if it’s poisonous. Experts, those who work with snakes on a regular basis, learn the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. Avoiding snakes, especially the poisonous ones, can save your life.

Anxiety is about distant possible dangers.

While fear is about a current immediate danger, anxiety is about future. The majority of things that anxious people worry about are things that are unlikely to happen. Often anxiety is related to rumination.

The part of the brain that appears to be involved in anxiety are the structures that should be used for thinking and planning as well as memory. People who are high in anxiety will attempt to improve results and keep themselves safe by trying to imagine all the things that could possibly go wrong.

The more you sit and try to think of things that might go wrong in the future, the more things you’ll find to be anxious about. It turns out that most of the things that we worry about will never happen. Anxiety is about trying to predict low probability events.

Planning for the future and for contingencies is a good thing. But if you find that you are spending a large amount of time trying to foresee everything that could possibly go wrong, you have moved from planning to trying to be a fortune teller.

The more you try to be perfect and never make a mistake, to create a life in which nothing can ever possibly go wrong, the more you will worry. Unfortunately, the belief that you can somehow protect yourself from every possible catastrophe turns out not to be true.

Whenever you find that you’re worrying about something and it’s making you anxious, the first question to ask yourself is how close am I to this potential danger? Is this something that could happen in the next minute? The second question you should be asking yourself is how likely is this bad outcome to be.

Ask yourself do you want to give up 99% of your life to avoid the things that have a 1% chance of happening. Living, and having good things happen in your life, requires doing lots of things. Unless you really love your anxiety, consider adding more spontaneous, exciting things to your life. Try more things and pay special attention to the things that go well not the few things that don’t turn out the way you want them to occur.

Learning the difference between realistic fears and the high anxiety that worrying brings can result in a much happier life.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Is it Anxiety, Stress or PTSD?

By David Joel Miller.

Just how stressed out are you?

Stressed

Feeling stressed out?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Everyone experiences a little stress in their day-to-day life.  Having anxiety in your life is considered just a part of modern life.  But sometimes that stress and anxiety overwhelm people.  The things that get called trauma come in all shapes and sizes.  Many times these traumas resolve in a short period of time.  Traumas that don’t resolve, that hang on for long periods of time and interrupt your daily life, can turn into a serious mental illness such as an anxiety disorder a stress related disorder or even Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

If you’re struggling with difficulties, anxieties, stress or even some traumatic events it is helpful to know just what kind of problem you’re dealing with.  Some things will sort themselves out on their own.  Other times anxiety, stress, and trauma need professional help.  Here are some of the problems that you might be experiencing and some thoughts about how to tell the different problems apart.

Stress.

Stress is that reaction the body has to challenges from the environment.  Stress can be small and repeated or large and dramatic.  Even good things can be stressful.  That first day on a new job can be full of stress even when you really want that job.  Many people get sick the first week on a new job.  Weddings or the birth of a baby can be stressful also, even when these have been something you have looked forward to.

Most of the time people have stress and it goes away.  But over time people can accumulate a great deal of stress, and this can result in physical, emotional and mental illnesses.  One very important life skill is learning how to manage and reduce stress.  Take a look at the other posts on counselorssoapbox.com about stress and stress management.

Animals get stressed and so do people.

Humans are not the only creatures to get stressed.  Animals in the wild can have a very stressful life.  Sapolsky wrote a very interesting book called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”  The main difference between humans and animals seems to be how they adjust to stress after it has come and gone.  Animals who were stressed returned to a low-stress state very quickly.  Humans get stressed and years later they are still experiencing that stress.  For humans, this accumulation of stress over time can result in chronic illnesses.

Anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal human response.  But when it gets out of control it can become a disease.  If you’re in a dangerous situation, anxiety and even fear can help you stay safe.  If the volume on your anxiety is turned up too high, it can cause you to overreact to many everyday situations.  Sometimes people have what they call anxiety attacks.  For a brief period of time, they feel excessive anxiety but eventually, these anxieties attacks subside.

When this high anxiety continues too long and begins to interfere with your daily life, your job, or your relationships, it is excessive and may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.  There are a number of different recognized Anxiety disorders depending on the particular features of your anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a diagnosable mental illness.  Sometimes in life people experience overwhelming traumatic experiences.  They may witness a violent death, a tornado, hurricane, or other natural disasters.  In these events, the person may fear that they or someone close to them is going to die.

This condition was originally identified in the veterans returning from war zones.  It has since been identified in civilian populations who have been exposed to traumatic events and feared for their lives.

As a result of this trauma, people begin to develop difficulties functioning.  Some people will struggle with these problems for short period of time a month or so.  Other people will very quickly return to normal function.  In some cases, as a result of these traumatic experiences, people will continue to have symptoms for years afterward.  These continuing symptoms may be PTSD.

Complex trauma.

Repeated traumatization becomes more difficult to heal from.  There has been a good deal of research and writing about a condition that is sometimes called complex trauma.  While it’s not an official diagnosis, is helpful for many people to think about it this way.  Someone may be able to experience a trauma and recover from it.  If that same person experiences the same trauma repeatedly, each time it becomes more difficult to recover.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress or PTSD consider getting professional help.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Getting past the fear.

By David Joel Miller.

Ways to overcome your fears and anxiety.

What do you fear

Fear
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Fear and anxiety are terrible roommates. They can take over your life and make you miserable. Anxiety is like some nasty monster lurking about your life controlling your destiny. Fear is a bully whispering in your ear all manner of negativity. The more you try to ignore your fears, pacify them by avoiding all the scary things, the more they take over your life.

If you have decided that you are tired of letting your fears and anxieties control your life then now is the time to get this relationship with your fears under control. Like an annoying relative, you may not be able to cut your anxieties out of your life altogether, but you can set up some new rules and take back control of your life. Here are some ways to tame the anxiety monster.

Accept the fear, recognize it is in the room.

Hiding from your fears will not make them go away. Neither will trying to run away. You can’t get rid of fear by hiding. Drugs, alcohol or other distracting behaviors will only make matters worse.

Take a good look at this fear. What does it look like? How is this interfering with your life? Consider how your life would be different if you listen to the fear less. You can’t work on a problem until you recognize it.

Name the fear – what are you really afraid of?

Think about this fear. What is it really? Fear of flying? Or is it fear of crashing? Flying happens way more than crashing. Fear of snakes? Or fear of being bitten by a snake? Maybe even fear of being bitten by a poisonous snake. Snakes are not real interested in biting you, not unless you look like a meal. They will run if they get the chance. They may even hiss or rattle to scare you away. The biting happens when you don’t recognize the snake for what it is and wants until after the bite.

What does your fear really want from you? Is this outcome something you will accept rather than live the life you want?

Some fears are protective and some are not.

If someone is shooting at you be afraid and take cover. Fear, in that case, is trying to protect you. But if you hear a car door slams down the block and your fear sends you running for cover, this fear is far bigger than the real danger.

Just because it scares you does not mean there is a danger.

Being afraid of your shadow is more than an expression. Many of our fears and anxieties in adult life are fears left over from childhood when we were smaller and more helpless. Reevaluate those fears. Are they valid today in the world you are living in?

You may need an objective opinion to evaluate the risk.

When you are frightened the whole world looks scary. It can help to talk about your fears with an objective person. Sometimes you know already that your fear is excessive. It may even be keeping you from having a life, talking to a professional can help you get past the fear.

Being perfect is not possible.

Are you afraid to make a mistake? Are you worried that others will judge you and think you are incapable? Not taking action will guarantee the result you fear. There are no perfect people. Everyone makes mistakes. No one hits a home run every time or wins every contest. Letting fear keep you out of the game will prevent what could have been. You will not get 100% of the jobs you do not apply for.

Don’t go around collection others fears.

Fear, like misery, loves company. If you grew up in a fear filled home or live with someone who is full of fear then you may have been infected by others fears. If you are struggling with other people’s fears, return that fear creature and get the refund of your life back.

What would be better if you did not have this fear?

When you stay focused on the fear you miss out on the other possibilities. Ask yourself what would be better if you did not have that fear. Act as if that fear was already gone and as you move towards the thing you used to fear you will see it shrink. Anxieties bully people, tell that bully no.

Avoid comparing up.

One way to keep anxiety a part of life is to constantly compare yourself to someone who has more than you. This “comparing up” results in a lot of depression and anxiety. You are not as famous as that person you saw on the awards show. You do not have 152,000 friends on social media like that other person. If you keep comparing up you will start feeling bad about yourself and magnify your fear of not measuring up.

Collect successes.

Most people ignore their successes and collect the memories of their shortfalls. This is precisely the wrong approach. Make sure that you recognize your life’s good times. Pick those happy memories up and hold onto them. If you do not save successes you will lose count of them and then your inventory will look like all you have ever had were failures.

Sneak up on the fear. Systematic desensitization.

You can conquer that fear or anxiety using a process called systematic desensitization. I have written elsewhere about this process. The trick here is to approach the fear as close as you can and then hold that position. If you begin to experience feeling the fear and yet nothing bad happens the fear will move away. Keep this up and you can stretch your comfort zone and reduce the circle that fear stays in. Eventful that fear will come to serve you not the other way around. Working with a professional on this process can pay great rewards.

Build a fear-busting team. Support system.

Fears are much scarier when you have to face them alone. One of the best ways to tackle life’s problems is to develop a good support system. You need to surround yourself with people who can stand with you when you face this fear down.

Which of these fear busting tools are you going to try?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What do you fear?

Sunday Inspiration    Post By David Joel Miller.

Fear

What do you fear

Fear
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

― Plato

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Sunday seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.

Conquer Your Fears and Anxieties

By David Joel Miller

How do you get past those fear and anxiety feelings?

Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and Fear
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

 

Fear likes you to think it is a roaring lion. We all have our fears, but some people let fear stop them while others do things in spite of those fears. Here are some tips to help you manage your fears and anxieties. These are techniques you might use to go about shrinking those anxieties down to kitten size roars.

1. Take a close look at the fear – what are you really afraid of?

Many fears are vague fuzzy creatures. You feel if you do something or don’t do something else, then for sure, something bad will happen. Take another look. What are you really afraid of? If you can’t identify specific, high probability bad possibilities, the chances are that what you are really afraid of is change and the unknown.

What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that might happen? Is it worth the risk?

Take another look at that fear and you may find that it is nothing you really need to let stand in your way.

2. Make an inventory of your fears and anxieties.

If you find that you have lots of fears and anxieties you need to start by learning to identify them. Write them all down by name. What are you afraid of? Give them ratings. How much do you fear each item you have listed? Arrange them in order and start by challenging the least terrifying fear. As you work your way up the list you may find that you were fearing things that are not scary once you bring that fear out of its dark hiding place into the light.

3. Is anxiety telling you the truth?

Challenge each fear. Is it telling you the truth? Just because something seems scary does not mean it is really dangerous. Gather evidence about the real risks of this thing that scares you. Do your friends and other supporters have this same fear? How do they cope despite those fears?

Fear tries to manipulate you by telling you lies. Cross examine that fear and present it the evidence you have gathered on why this thing is not the awful calamity it pretends to be.

4. Keep your eye on the goal of being fear-free.

When you have your mind set on getting something you will find that fear will get out of your way. Want to help or protect your child from danger, then you will have less difficulty with your anxiety.

How much do you want or need that job? Keep reminding yourself of your goal and the importance of getting where you need to go. Keeping your eye on the prize keeps you moving forward regardless of the fear.

5. Keep stretching your comfort zone.

Our anxieties are at their worst when you get too far outside your comfort zone. Think of the things that you have done in the past that you did not feel comfortable doing, but because of a friend’s encouragement or a real desire you did it anyway.

Having stepped a little outside your comfort zone and realizing things went well can stretch your confront zone.

Keep stretching out that comfort zone a little at a time and see how brave you will become.

6. Do not let fear steal your life.

Fear is a thief. Anxiety is a bully. They want to take your life away from you. Keep control of your life and let your fears and anxieties know that you are in charge. You can choose to do or not do something, but no fear or pint size anxiety will keep you from having the life you want and deserve.

7. Use positive self-talk.

Keep telling yourself that you can. Remind yourself of what you want and why. Words matter. We humans think in words and what we think tends to come true. Tell yourself you can’t and you create the failure. Tell yourself that you will give it your best effort and see what happens.

Occasionally you will give it the best shot you have and something will still turn out badly. Do not take this as a confirmation of your fears. Believe that no one hits 100% but that if you keep on going despite those fears there is no limit to how far you will go.

What have you done recently to give your fears and anxieties the boot? Leave a comment and let the rest of us know what works to keep the anxiety beast at bay.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

19 Ways to manage your anxiety

By David Joel Miller

Too much anxiety in your life?

Anxiety and Fear

Lessons Anxiety teaches you.
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

You do not need to let the anxiety monster run your life. Turn down the volume on that anxiety and take back control of your life. Anxiety monsters come in all sizes but these tips may help you with the one you are living with. Here are some ways that can help you manage those anxious moments.

1. Make to-do lists.

Trying to remember all the things you need to do will keep your head full of little working memory to keep track of what still needs to be done. The result of all that anxiety in your head is that you will forget something, probably something really important.

Write it all down, prioritize and start with the most important thing first. Cross things off the list as you get them done. This way you won’t forget to do something and if there is something left on the list at the end of the day it will be a less important thing.

2. Update your calendar.

Like daily list making, try keeping a longer term calendar to plan those important must do and must not forget projects. This can help reduce your anxiety over forgetting to do things.

3. Empty your mind – write it down.

Just remembered that you need some milk on the way home? Not sure if you sent the power bill in this month? A coworker mentioned a book and you are thinking you would like to stop on the way home and pick up a copy. Will you really remember all these things at the end of the day?

Writing down these things-to-remember frees more memory space and reduces your fear you will forget to do something important.

4. Be on time for things.

People who get to things on time and are well prepared have less anxiety. Show up late and your anxiety goes up. This is especially true if you are going somewhere for the first time.

Being on time is a skill most of us can learn. For more on being on time see the post about how those punctual people do things titled “How to be on time.”

5. Create routines and rituals.

Having a systematic way your do things can help take the stress and worry out of daily life. Clean out a place for something you do often. Have all the parts or ingredients necessary at your fingertips. Having a book bag for school books and a drawer in your desk for your writing things can reduce the last-minute frantic search.

You need rituals and routines, so does your family. See the post – Happy Families have routines and rituals for more on this topic.

6. Interview your anxiety and make it your friend.

Sit down and have a talk with your anxiety. What is it trying to protect you from? Why is it following you around? This may be the result of something that happened in your past that you are resolved to never let happen again. It might, however, be an effort to get total control over the world around you, something you should have left behind in middle school.

7. Sit and hold anxieties hand – learn to be comfortable with anxiety’s presence.

Sometimes anxiety, like fear, is justified. There may be risks involved. Anxiety can help you keep an eye out for unexpected events. Do not let the presence of your anxiety keep you from doing things you might enjoy or that might be beneficial for your life.

It is OK to feel anxious some of the time. Just feel what you are feeling. Say Hi to Mr. Anxiety and then move on.

8. See your doctor.

Some physical conditions can result in an increase of anxiety. Some medications turn up the volume on your anxiety. Worry about your heath is a leading cause of needless anxiety.

Work with your doctor on managing your health and on being sure that your medications are not making your anxiety worse.

Finding out if that little pain, you know the one, is a real health challenge or just something common, can reduce your need to worry and feel anxious.

It there is something wrong with your health the sooner you face it the better.

9. Keep your body in good shape – exercise, eat, drink enough water.

A healthy body helps keep your mind running well. A poor diet makes it harder for you to cope with life.

Having energy and feeling healthy can reassure your anxiety that you are back in control and it does not need to protect you anymore. Low blood sugar from not eating right can increase your symptoms of anxiety. Dehydration can put you on edge.

Lack of exercise keeps your body in protection mode. It can’t cope if it never gets to do anything.

10. Prioritize dealing with those high risks issues.

High risk and high priority worries control you until you take control of them. The sooner you take action on those important issues the less time you have to spend worrying about the outcome. Rarely does putting off an important action make it come out better.

11. Discover what relaxes you.

Pay special attention to those times in your life when you feel genuinely relaxed. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing when you are at peace? Recreate those moments whenever possible throughout your day. Pay attention to those gifts of calmness. What you notice hangs around longer.

12. Reexamine your habits – caffeine, drugs, alcohol.

Excessive use of stimulants is a real problem for anyone who has an anxiety disorder. Cut out the caffeine and other stimulants. Avoid street drugs. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with your anxiety only makes the situation worse. They work for a while, but when they wear off the anxiety returns worse than ever.

Smoking damages your heath, short-term and long-term. Do not tell yourself that you will quit when you get the anxiety under control. Quitting smoking and those other habits will help turn down the volume on the anxiety.

13. Get more sleep.

Being chronically sleep deprived makes you irritable and overwhelmed. Being well rested gives you the confidence to tackle more of life’s challenges. Most of us do not get enough sleep and the sleep we do get is low quality. Work on the things that promote good sleep hygiene.

14. Deal with those nightmares.

Nightmares play a role in maintaining mental health issues. In a previous post “Getting rid of Nightmares that maintain Depression and PTSD,” I wrote about the role of nightmares in depression and PTSD, Nightmares can both reflect and magnify anxiety. The treatment for nightmares is very similar regardless of what your issue is.

15. Systematic Desensitization.

This is a specific treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing the effects of fears in creating and maintaining anxiety. A similar treatment “Exposure and response prevention therapy” has been effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Generally, these treatments are done with a professional but there are self-help books based on these principles available.

16. Strengthen your support system.

Having a strong support system makes you less at risk to be overwhelmed by anxiety or any other disorder for that matter. There are several posts on counselorssoapbox.com about developing a good support system. The post – 11 rules for Making Friends & Creating a Support System is a good place to start.

17. Pray and meditate to clear out the worries.

Religious and spiritual practices can be helpful in managing your worries regardless of your particular faith. I try not to take sides in the debates on this subject. I am neither a religious expert nor a theologian. What I do know is that consistently clients have told me that religious and spiritual practices are helpful in managing their issues, whatever they chose to call those issues.

People who believe in something have better mental health, as a rule than those who believe in nothing.

19. Get professional help.

See the post – Anxiety – fears and phobias can be treated There are a number of treatments for excess anxiety, some better than others but seeing a professional counselor or therapist can be very helpful in managing your anxiety’s. Medication can be helpful for short-term or temporary control of anxiety also.

There were some of my suggestions for managing and reducing your anxiety. Have you found others that have been helpful to you?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/

Fear of Failure Prevents Success.

By David Joel Miller.

Fear of failure can paralyze you.

Success and Failure

Success and Failure.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From an early age, humans learn to be afraid of failing. Fear of failing and its cousin fear of being evaluated by others has a survival value some of the time. People who are slow to jump in a flooding river or refrain from walking into a tiger’s cave may live longer. But in modern society, this tendency to avoid things we may fail at keeps us from trying things that could make us successful.

Fear of failure has been linked to Eating Disorders, Anxiety, worry, and Depression. The fear of failing also causes some people to become antisocial, cheat or use force. If success is so very important and failure is so unacceptable what might you be willing to do to avoid that failure and guarantee success?

Why does this Fear of Failure mechanism keep you from success?

Fear of failure triggers an automatic avoidance response. Avoid the problem you feel no pain. You also achieve no gain.

Fear of failure in this modern urban setting is more about avoiding shame than avoiding Tigers or falling off mountains. There is a strong connection for many among us between failing and feeling that we are failures. Fear of failure moves beyond being protective when you come to believe that if you try something and can’t accomplish it you are a failure as a person.

In this highly competitive world, some come to think that if you can’t be first place, world champion, then it is better to not try and set yourself up for failure and the accompanying shame. This fear of failure and the avoidance of effort cause you to avoid the activity and assure that you will forgo any possible successes.

Fear of failure affects us in three primary ways.

Fear of failure creates performance Anxiety.

An excessive fear of failure results in constant performance anxiety. By performance anxiety, I am not talking about activities in the bedroom, though that can happen also. Fear of failure prevents people from doing things that might be noticed at work, in school, on the playground, and in life.

The strongest fear known, worse than the fear of death, is public speaking. Most people would rather risk the tiger, swim the raging river than get up in front of an audience and talk about something.

Performance anxiety also affects athletes. Playing it safe does not win games or competitions. To win big you need to take big risks.  Coaches know you need the skills but you also need the heart to take those big risks and make those big plays.

Fear of failure magnify’s Social Anxiety

Fear of failure causes people to avoid social situations. Avoid the situation and the anxiety is reduced. Do this repeatedly and you become afraid to be around people. The avoidance behavior is self-reinforcing. At some point, you will become lonely and isolated. At this stage it is extremely difficult to engage in social activities and when you do you are likely to avoid anything that might be evaluated or bring you notice.

People with social anxiety become lonely even when in a crowd.

School Anxiety can be the result of fear of failure.

Think this is confined only to small children? Think again. Adults who attend a training will attempt to avoid answering questions, getting up in front of the group to talk or any other activity that might result in their being evaluated.

People high in fear of failure find that their anxiety also interferes with their work life. It becomes fear of a workplace. Similar forms of fear of failure can interfere with many other roles in life and keep us from taking on an activity that might result in a possibility of success or failure. People who are high in Fear of Failure overvalue the cost of failure and underestimate the gains they might achieve from success.

There may be times when a dose of fear of failure is protective and keeps you from attempting things that could be harmful. Beginning swimmers should not attempt to swim the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the time the problem with our fear of failure is in the opposite direction. We have the volumes on our fear meter set way to high.

Is the knob on your fear of failure control turned up to the max?

In future posts we will look at Fear of failure, what causes it, how it is holding us back and how we could overcome those fears. Since the opinions and evaluations of others play such a large role in our fear of failure we need to look at the ways in which we are handling the evaluations of others.

We also need to look at the tricks we play on ourselves to avoid failing or thinking of ourselves as failures and how those tricks are holding us back.

We should look at how we evaluated ourselves and how we react when we are evaluated by others.  A classic example of this other evaluation and fear of failure is test anxiety. We will use test anxiety to examine how our fear of being evaluated by others is holding us back and how we might overcome that fear.

Here is wishing you a safe journey on your road to a happy life.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books