Each person has a different perception of what fear means to them. For some, it may be a fear of spiders or of crossing a dark street. For others, it may be speaking on stage in front of a large audience.
To learn more about fear, we interviewed Emotional Educator and Mindset Coach, Alison Foy. Here, she explains the differences between fear and phobia, how to identify the origin of our fears, how teens experience fear, and how to overcome it—just in time for the year’s scariest holiday!
What is fear?
Fear is a strong and overpowering emotion that you feel because of a person or a situation around you—-an unpleasant and scary moment. It’s that feeling that almost paralyzes your rational thinking and decision-making. Everyone at some point has experienced it.
So, what’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?
The difference between a fear and a phobia is that fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat, warranted or unwarranted. For example, a warranted fear is when safety is at risk. An unwarranted fear is something that we convince ourselves is a threat when there isn’t any; an example would be not swimming in a lake for fear of sharks.
Phobias are an extreme level of fear that can influence an individual’s ability to participate in normal life experiences and can be addressed through different types of cognitive behavioural therapies, coaching modalities, and working with professionals.
How do stress and anxiety affect fear?
Anxiety is often described as “fearing the future.” Sometimes we are unaware of our thoughts of worry, doubt, or fear, but we experience stress or anxiety in our bodies. There are many things that help with stress and anxiety that you can do on your own. Some examples are: breathing, drinking water, talking to a friend, journaling, exercising, or using active visualization to focus on what you want.
How fear affects teens
Teens and adults experience the emotion of fear itself the same way, but it’s the thinking around the fear that is different. Here are a few ways that teens uniquely experience fear:
- Fear affects the physical growth and development of teens
- Fear sabotages the rational thinking power of teens
- Teens can experience fear through social rejection
- Teenagers can start anticipating the negative repercussions more than the positive sides of a situation, which can harm their level of confidence
What are some of the ways teens can identify where their fear originated?
Often when we experience fear or other emotions, we are so focused on making it stop that we focus on everything outside of ourselves to help. Ask yourself questions like, ‘where is this coming from?’ or ‘what do I need to do right now to ease this fear?’. Sometimes we can ease the fear on our own, and sometimes we realize that we need to reach out for more support and resources.
What are some common fears you’ve noticed of teens during this pandemic?
The sense of anxiety that comes when things are out of our control is definitely one I have noticed during this pandemic. My biggest piece of advice for coping with things out of our control is to recognize that the one thing in our control is our ability to respond. We are always in control of how we respond to situations and by remembering that, we can start to take our power back.
How do teens start to overcome their fears?
Adolescents need support and sympathy, a strong communication channel. Professional counselling can also help; counsellors are trained to break through hidden feelings and fears. Work on instilling confidence in yourself and be sure not to judge other people’s fears.
Thank you to Alison Foy for this insightful conversation! For more on mental health topics from Alison, check out her IG @alisonfoy.