In the last few years, Americans have been a little more worried about a number of things. Mass shootings popped up in the top 10, as did the fear of identity theft and hospitalization costs.
But some fears are more real than others. And this year, many of them are rooted in political ideology.
1. Fear of Failure
Fear of failure can be an overwhelming feeling that prevents people from pursuing their dreams. It can also cause them to have low self-esteem and engage in negative self-talk that undermines confidence and hinders motivation. In addition, this fear may cause physical symptoms like trembling, sweating, anxiety attacks, and nausea.
The fear of failure can stem from many different factors, such as perfectionism or a traumatic experience that happened in the past. It can also be caused by environmental or societal pressures, such as being raised in a highly critical or unsupportive household.
Over the years, fears regarding the environment have become less prevalent in the top 10. The 2020/21 survey placed more emphasis on economic worries such as a recession and financial collapse. This increase in focus could be a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and tense political climate. Nevertheless, the overall theme of the survey remains consistent.
2. Fear of Public Speaking
Public speaking anxiety, known medically as glossophobia, is one of the most common fears in American adults. It scares more Americans than earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, mass shootings, loneliness, dying, needles, volcanoes and aging, according to Chapman University.
Speakers who work hard to improve their skills can often overcome their fear of public speaking. However, they must address underlying causes of their distress as well. Fears can stem from beliefs about their audience, their ability to speak, or the speech situation itself.
Many speakers who are afraid of public speaking believe their audiences will think they are a poor speaker. They also overestimate the likelihood that bad things will happen during their presentation. To decrease these negative thoughts, a fearful speaker can practice deep breathing exercises. Additionally, they can challenge their worries and identify objective evidence that contradicts them. Alternatively, some fearful speakers may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy or a prescription for a calming medication by a mental health prescriber.
3. Fear of Death
Many people are afraid of dying, leaving loved ones behind and being alone. Studies show that the fear of death correlates with anxiety disorders like PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder, and can also be linked to specific phobias, such as nosophobia, which is the fear of diseases and infections.
The inevitability of death may be why it is the most common fear, but it can also be a motivation to try and find meaning and purpose in life. People who are older, in committed relationships, physically healthy and either very religious or not religious at all tend to be less afraid of death.
If a person’s anxiety about death affects their day-to-day functioning, they should seek treatment from a healthcare professional. Standard treatments for anxiety and specific phobias, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help them learn to overcome their fears. If the anxiety is severe, treatment options such as exposure therapy and pharmacological therapies may be necessary.
4. Fear of Change
People often fear change because they’re afraid of the unknown. This phobia can lead people to stay in situations that make them unhappy or miss out on potential opportunities.
In addition, this fear can also be rooted in negative experiences or past traumas. For example, those who grew up in tumultuous households or endured toxic relationships often crave stability and can see any changes as threats.
Interestingly, this year the survey found that Americans’ political and governmental fears differed significantly along ideological lines. Those with conservative political views were more concerned about civil unrest, undue corporate influence, and terrorism while those with liberal political beliefs worried more about police brutality, gun control, and fascism.
Manly recommends that those who fear change work to break down their worst-case scenarios and focus on the positive effects of a new situation. She also suggests embracing a “can-do” attitude, finding support, shifting your outlook, and regularly rewarding yourself.
5. Fear of the Dark
Despite the popularity of horror films and TV shows, real-life fears and phobias are much scarier than any flesh-eating doll or serial killer clown. In fact, a fear of the dark is one of people’s biggest fears, according to a new survey by Britain’s leading bed retailer.
The fear of the dark usually develops in children when they are old enough to have an active imagination but not yet able to distinguish fantasy from reality, experts say. It can continue to haunt them into adulthood, causing them to avoid certain environments and activities at night.
A severe fear of the dark, called nyctophobia, is considered a phobia when it affects your day-to-day life and is triggered by a disfigured perception of what could happen in a dark environment (this may include partaking in content your brain considers threatening or linking dark environments to disturbing events or ideas). To overcome this fear, experts recommend joining an anxiety support group, setting realistic goals and practicing self-compassion.
6. Fear of Enclosed Spaces
A fear of confined spaces, also known as claustrophobia, is one of the most common phobias. People with this phobia may feel anxious or panicked when in small places such as elevators, airplanes, bathrooms, and MRI machines. It can affect a person’s daily activities and cause extreme distress.
The top five fears in America include the threat of terrorism, nuclear weapons, mass shootings, and identity theft. Other concerns that ranked higher than average included pollution of the oceans and rivers, and the poisoning of drinking water.
It is interesting to note that Democrats are more afraid of clowns and ghosts than Republicans, according to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears. However, it’s not clear whether the phobia is real or a result of political beliefs. If you have a phobia and it is interfering with your life, you should seek treatment from a therapist or psychologist. One-on-one talk therapy can help you overcome your fears with exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.