Why do I feel afraid all the time?

October 17, 2022

When temperatures dip and the days start getting shorter, some people flock to the movies (or their couches) for some scary seasonal fun. If you’re usually thinking something like, “no thanks, real life is scary enough,” this guide’s for you.

There’s nothing wrong with not enjoying the adrenaline spike that comes along with a good scare, whether it’s onscreen or IRL. But if your everyday life gets your heart racing faster than any horror film, that might be a sign that your mental health needs some attention.

How can I tell if I’m afraid too often?

Everyone gets scared sometimes—fear is your brain’s security system keeping you alert to the possibility of danger. But because our brains developed to protect us from prehistoric predators like giant tigers rather than modern stressors like that important interview, that security system can go a little haywire for some people.

So how can you tell if your brain is a little too good at keeping you safe? Well, you’re the best judge of your own situation. Ask yourself if fear is stopping you from doing things you want to do, like taking on new challenges, or disrupting your daily routine. You can also check in with your body throughout the day. If you often notice physical symptoms of fear, such as a fast or irregular heartbeat, sweating, or an upset stomach, that could be a sign that fear is becoming a problem for you.

Why might I be feeling afraid all the time?

Intense or frequent fear can be a sign of a few different mental health conditions, which all have one symptom in common: anxiety. You might think that what you’re dealing with isn’t serious enough to qualify as anxiety, but being afraid all or most of the time is exactly what anxiety feels like.

There are a few different types of mental health conditions that can cause anxiety. They include:

Depending on your other symptoms, you might be dealing with one of these types of anxiety, or something else entirely. Talking to a psychiatrist is the best way to know for sure what’s causing your symptoms.

What should I do to stop feeling afraid?

If what you’ve read so far sounds like you, you’re not alone—anxiety rates among young adults in the U.S. were going up even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which only made matters worse. So what can people with anxiety do to ease their fears? Here’s what experts consider most effective:

  • Regular exercise: Moving your body can help relieve some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Don’t worry about starting up an intense regimen if that’s not your jam: Even a short walk can make a big difference for your state of mind.
  • Grounding techniques: While exercising regularly can help prevent bouts of anxiety from happening, grounding techniques help you deal with them in the moment by bringing your attention to the present. In other words, when your mind is cluttered with distressing thoughts, try engaging with your body and the world around you instead.
  • Write it out: When mobilizing your senses isn’t enough to stop your mind from racing, try writing down your worries instead. Putting it all on paper can have a cathartic effect, even if you never read it.

What if that’s not enough?

For some people, even the best coping mechanism or creative outlet won’t be enough—and that's okay. A psychiatrist can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your symptoms and prescribe anxiety medication if you need it.

Answer a few questions and we’ll connect you with one of our psychiatrists who specialize in anxiety.

When fear is doing its job, it helps keep you safe by letting you know when something’s a little too far outside your comfort zone. But when it escalates into anxiety, fear becomes more like a cage, keeping you trapped.  

Only you can know if your fear isn’t helping you anymore, but you don’t have to figure that out on your own. Talk to one of our psychiatrists to get help taking control of your anxiety.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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