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Feeling Afraid
Everyone feels afraid from time to time, and it's easy to feel embarrassed or helpless about it. Here are some ideas and advice for overcoming our fears.
Advice Topics:

Advice Questions about Feeling Afraid:

  • GO"I'm really afraid of death, I'm not religious. At night, I think about how death is forever, for eternity. Yeah, I think dark thoughts. And I need help to get rid of them. Any advice?"

  • GO"I have a really bad fear of needles (or vaccinations). After getting scared at the school immunizations, I feel as if I want to get this fear under control. Do you have any advice?"

  • GO"I am really, really afraid of going to the doctor, I find going they're soooooo scary. I am TERRIFIED of hospitals, ambulances, or anything else that has to do with a doctor. Please help!!! How do I get over this fear? I have to have a physical soon and I most certainly do not want to go!!! I really need to overcome my fear, but I've had it for a really long time."

  • GO"My parents both work. I have to stay home alone, and I'm scared. What should I do?"

  • GO"Every night I get these panic attacks and I keep thinking that these ghosts or demons are gonna pop up and scare me or even posses me. I stay up to almost 6:00am every morning, thinking about this! I'm afraid of the dark and vampires. I start to see things and my heart races. I even cry it's so bad. I shake and toss and turn. I only feel better when my dad gets up for work or when it's daylight. I have a serious problem that I don't know how to fix."

  • GO"Student council elections are coming up in my school. I want to run for VP. But first, I'm nervous to give a speech to some four hundred kids. Two, I'm a little bigger than some of the kids. I'm scared maybe they'll judge me on that. Any advice?"

  • GO"This may sound weird, but I'm afraid of singing solos in front of lots of people. I'm okay when I act or speak in front of tons of people, but singing makes me really nervous and I always start singing bad when I am really nervous. I'm okay when I sing in groups. Can you help me handle my solos?"

  • GO"I know this sounds babyish, but I have fear of the dentist. It just seems so horrifying to me. I'm really scared, because pretty soon I'm going to get a tooth yanked out. Any advice?"

  • GO"I have public speaking problems. My teachers want me to read my essay in front of my class and I refuse. It's not only in front of class but also when I'm talking to a cashier I get nervous. English is my first language so I don't understand what is happening!"

  • GO"I've got a problem. Last year I got a really expensive snowboard. Well, I'm just a learner. Every time I get off the chair lift I fall and humiliate myself! I love snowboarding. All my friends keep telling me to just keep practicing but the more I go, the more I fall and the more I fall, the more embarrassed I am. And the more embarrassed I am, the less I will want to go. If I never go, I will never learn so I don't know what to do!! Help me, I hate this situation!"

  • GO"I'm addicted to the computer. I have a habit of always going on. How do I stop?"

  • GO"I would like to know how to overcome my fear of heights because I have got this event coming up and you have to abseil (climb down a rope) off the top of a climbing wall. I know it isn't much but it scares me to think about it. If you can help, please do!"

  • GO"I have a fear of talking in front of people. Even if it’s just a few people, I get nervous talking out loud in front of them. I get sweaty, and my heart beats so fast since English is not my first language. I can speak English fine, but I'm not confident enough to speak out loud because I might make a mistake in my pronunciation and my peers would laugh at me. What should I do to overcome this fear?”

  • GO"I'm 12 and I'm still afraid or the dark!!!!!! But I'm mostly afraid of vampires. Whenever I'm left alone downstairs, my parents tell me to shut off everything. I turn off everything a little far from the stairs, then when I turn off the 2 final switches, I run up 13 steps just to get to the upstairs living room. Anyway, how should deal with my fear? PLEASE HELP!”

  • GO"I'm a real scaredy-cat. I am afraid of rides, mostly roller coasters. If my friend forces me to come on a ride that I'm really scared of, I cry before the ride starts and the guy operating the ride lets me off. At the end of the school year the school band is going to a rating festival in Pennsylvania, and afterwards we are going to Hershey Park. I hate 80% of the rides there, and I'm afraid people are going to make fun of me for refusing to go on most of the rides. Please help me! (If your advice has anything to do with going on the rides I'm scared of, I WON'T DO IT!)”

  • GO"I'm ten years old and will be going to summer camp this summer...I'm worried that there might not be privacy when I change clothes or bathe. I'm also worried about being away from home and my family two weeks straight…What can I do?”

  • GO"Ever since I found out I had asthma, I have just been sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I'm afraid to go exercise or that I might have an asthma attack. What should I do to get over my fear? A couple of my friends have asthma and my mom says I should talk to them. Should I do it?”

  • GO"I am afraid of tornadoes. When I hear the weather report,
    I cover my ears. I know it is SO stupid, but I am terrified of them. When it's raining or there is a thunderstorm, I get scared. I live in Minnesota, and we get tornadoes once or twice a year. The last tornado that we had here was in May on Mother's Day, and it was right by where I was. It was only 1 mile away! Can you help me with this problem?”

  • GO"My mom signed me up for sleepaway camp this year. I have been before, and I was miserably homesick! I don't know how I am going to deal with going again. At night, I worry that I just won't be able to make it. How can I deal with this?”

  • GO"I feel so stupid. All the time when I'm at my house, I feel like someone's watching me through my windows. It's not so bad in the daylight but I always try to act different just in case it's someone from my school. At night or when it's dark I get freaked out. My stairs face my front door (which has a window) and whenever I go upstairs when it's dark, I have to run and hide behind a wall. I don't know how to get over it. Please help!”

  • GO"I feel like a jerk. I'm afraid that my life will change forever once I get on a plane, and that I will never be the same as before. I'm 11 and scared. Can you help me out?”

Dear IML,
My mom signed me up for sleepaway camp this year. I have been before, and I was miserably homesick! I don't know how I am going to deal with going again. At night, I worry that I just won't be able to make it. How can I deal with this?
--Leah, 11

The IML Mentors respond:

Dear Leah,
I understand how you feel. I went to a sleepaway camp for the first time when I was eight years old. I missed home so much that I hated it! But my parents forced me to go the next year and you know what? I loved it that time. I made great friends that I still talk to up until this day. So my advice to you is to try and give it another shot, and go into it with a positive attitude. You’d be surprised how much your attitude will affect the kind of experience you have. Being able to stay away from home for long periods of time will help you as you grow older and allow you to experience more. Personally, I find it very liberating and relaxing to be off on my own, and I hope you give it a shot because you may find you feel the same way.
--Jordan, IML Mentor

Does your mom know that you are scared about sleepaway camp? I think the first thing you should do is discuss this problem with her. Ask her why she feels so strongly that you go, and make sure she understands how truly hard it was for you last time. Talk about what in particular made you homesick, and how you might be able to do things differently this time around. Perhaps you can come up with ways for you to feel less homesick. For instance, you can create care packages together ahead of time and agree to regular phone calls, e-mails, etc. If you really feel that you’re not ready, perhaps you can start with day camp and then move up to sleepaway camp next summer. But I hope you do give it another try, because sleepaway camp can be so much fun! It is a home away from home where you make an extended family and friendships that last a lifetime.
--Kerri, IML Mentor

Hey, Leah!
Sleepaway camp is an opportunity to get away from home and have some adventures, but if you get homesick easily, I understand that it might not be fun. But keep this in mind: there will be times all through your life when you will have to be away from home and you might feel uncomfortable. Trips like sleepaway camp are part of the growing up process, and the more you go, the easier it becomes. I bet even this year will be a bit easier than last time. Try to enjoy all the activities and meet lots of new people. Maybe if you stay busy, you won't have time to think about missing home. When it's over, you can take those memories with you and you grow a little more.
--Carren, IML Mentor


Dear IML,
I feel so stupid. All the time when I'm at my house, I feel like someone's watching me through my windows. It's not so bad in the daylight but I always try to act different just in case it's someone from my school. At night or when it's dark I get freaked out. My stairs face my front door (which has a window) and whenever I go upstairs when it's dark, I have to run and hide behind a wall. I don't know how to get over it. Please help!
--Julie, 11

The IML Mentors respond:

Hi Julie,
You should always be who you are, especially in your own home. That is your space where you should feel comfortable and safe. It’s normal to be afraid when it’s dark. I used to run down a dark hallway until I got to the other end, and always felt like something could be behind me, even though I never saw or heard anything. One day I forced myself to walk really slowly down the long hallway when it was pitch black, and when I got to the other end I turned around really fast. Nothing there, nothing had followed me. Then I made it a habit to walk down the hallway. After a while, I quit running because I knew there was nothing there. Maybe you could try walking slowly up your steps, no matter how scared you feel. Eventually, I bet you won’t even think about that window behind you in the door. Don’t dwell on thoughts about what could be outside a dark window. Think of something else, like what you did that day that was fun. Also remember that this fear is nothing to feel stupid about. Everybody has some fear they must practice getting rid of.
--Carren, IML Mentor

Hey Julie!
First of all, you shouldn't feel stupid. Everybody has things that they're embarrassed about. When I was in middle school, I was the tallest kid in the entire school, so I felt like people were always watching me. I always felt awkward and uncomfortable, and became really insecure. Insecurity is one of the worst parts about becoming a teenager, but like most things, it can be overcome. Try thinking about something else as you go up the stairs. Instead of worrying what you look like or how you act, think about what you're going to do next weekend or whatever you enjoy. Getting your mind off the problem helps a lot. If the dark scares you, turn on the light as you walk up the stairs...or if it's late at night, bring a flashlight. In 8th grade, I finally realized that the kids I thought were looking at me weren't. They were too busy worrying about the same thing! So it's definitely not weird to be self-conscious.
--Lauren, IML Mentor

Hi Julie!
You shouldn’t feel stupid about being afraid of something, because everybody has fears even if they don’t make sense to others. I used to have the same problem. During the summer I would leave the blinds in my room open to let the sun in, but when it was time to go to bed I would forget to close them. With it dark outside, it looked as though there were faces staring at me through the windows! I would run into the living room, scared. One time when this happened, my dad walked all around the house looking for someone and said that no one was there. He said that the next time I was scared, I should take my little sister with me. Sure enough, the next time I thought someone was staring at me through the windows, I got my little sister and closed the blinds with her in the room. I think that by bringing Marissa along I felt braver. Julie, maybe if you brought someone along with you when you go upstairs you will find your courage. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
--Vanessa, IML Mentor

Dear Julie,
This is very normal for kids your age, and in fact, this used to happen to me all the time! I wouldn't want to sing in the shower or even get dressed for fear that someone would be watching. What you need to realize is that they are NOT watching, and that many people have that fear. It's funny, because I used to do the same thing in my old house, run up the stairs that were right near the front door. Try this: when you go downstairs, take a deep breath, and even walk slowly and calmly if it puts you in a cool, confident mood. Maybe it would even help if you did something crazy and stupid when you're feeling like someone's watching!
--Samantha, IML Mentor


Dear IML,
I feel like a jerk. I'm afraid that my life will change forever once I get on a plane, and that I will never be the same as before. I'm 11 and scared. Can you help me out?
--Jamel, 11

An expert responds:
From Lyn Turnell, Ed.S., LPC, NCC, NCSC, School Counselor, Canton, Georgia

Dear Jamel,
Fear of planes and flying is very common, especially since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. In fact, approximately 1 out 6 people are afraid to fly and that's not just kids, but adults too! There are even many programs that exist to help people overcome their fear of flying. I'd say that makes you pretty normal.

One thing you can do is talk about your fears with a parent. Let him or her know what bothers you about flying, especially if you have a trip coming up. An adult can help you know what to expect and also help you feel more comfortable about the whole experience.

Before you take a plane trip, you may want to learn about how a plane operates. Sometimes fears come from not knowing or not understanding how an airplane works. Finding out about these things and about what is done to keep passengers safe can help some people feel more comfortable flying. You May also want to talk to some of your friends who have flown before and ask them about their experience.

On the day that you’re scheduled to fly, take some things with you that you enjoy, like books or handheld games. These can help you be more comfortable on a flight because they provide a fun distraction while you travel. Most planes even have movies or TV that you can watch while you’re in the air.

Also, don't be afraid to ask the adult you are traveling about what’s happening during the flight. The sights and sounds on an airplane are very different from a car. Understanding exactly what you are seeing and hearing will keep your imagination from running wild. If you have to travel alone, have your family arrange for an airline employee to look after you while you fly. Because he or she flies all the time, that person can answer any questions you have and knows better than anyone how to keep you safe.

If you get on an airplane after trying these things and you’re still afraid, remember to use regular stress reduction skills like taking some slow, deep breaths and telling yourself that everything is going to be okay.

Flying can be an exciting way to travel because you see the world in a whole new and different way! I wish you all the best of luck as you prepare for your journeys.

For more advice on how to deal with fears related to terrorism, visit the IML section on September 11th.

The IML Mentors respond:

Dear Jamel,
Sometimes, the things that COULD be are much scarier than the things that actually are. I am extremely claustrophobic and it got to the point where I couldn't go certain places because of the small space and large amounts of people. I found that the best way for me to face my fear was to conquer it head on. Together with a friend, I went into a lot of different places I was scared of. He held my hand, and I closed my eyes at first…then I gradually opened them. Though my heart was racing, I slowly got over the fear.
--Jessica, IML Mentor

Hey Jamel,
For a long time, I had a fear of going into the ocean. I was too afraid of the things swimming and living in it. It took a lot to get over the fear, but I did it. One of the things that made a difference for me was having someone help me through it. If you have someone with you at all times or most of the time, facing your fear is not that bad.
--Jaron, IML Mentor

Dear Jamel,
I don’t have a fear of flying, granted I always grab my armrests when we're taking off or landing, but I have a fear of heights. Every time I get near a ledge and look off, I picture myself hurtling towards the ground and I get a horrible sensation throughout my body. What works for me is to distract myself and just not think about that picture. I just keep my mind on other things.
--Mikey, IML Mentor


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