Change is an inevitable part of life, but the fear of changing circumstances can overwhelm some of us. We all have common fears and moments when we feel uncertain or scared to take a risk. Maybe you need to decide about changing jobs, or you’re considering a significant move, or you’re getting married or deciding if you should start a family.
For people with metathesiophobia — the clinical term for fear of change — these feelings are more intense and pervasive than what most people experience. Some would even have panic attacks at the sign of change coming.
Keep reading if you’re struggling to overcome your anxiety and negative thoughts about making any change in life or going out of your comfort zone. You may be dealing with a deep-rooted fear about what could happen — but there’s good news. You can overcome a fear of change phobia, and we can help you learn how.
What is Fear of Change (Metathesiophobia)?
Fear of change, also known as metathesiophobia, is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by fear or dread of any life adjustment. It can manifest differently and may be triggered by anything from small changes to significant life events. People with this common phobia often struggle to adapt to new situations and feel overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of change.
Examples of fear of change
Some common examples of metathesiophobia include fear of:
- Moving houses
- Starting a new job
- Changing schools or universities
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Having children
- Making financial decisions like investing money or taking out loans
Other forms could include fear associated with physical health changes like undergoing surgery or experiencing a chronic illness, mental health issues such as different types of depression, or even something seemingly insignificant, like trying out a new hairstyle.
Is fear of change normal?
It’s normal for people to experience discomfort when facing big life changes. Fear is part of an instinct for self-preservation. In fact, research shows that routines in our life can be comforting.
However, if your fears become overwhelming and start affecting your daily life, it might be time to seek help from a professional so you can learn how to overcome a debilitating phobia. A good therapist can provide you with the necessary support you need to overcome your fears and take on changes willingly and confidently.
“Fear of change is a natural process that all human beings experience in their lifetime, especially if they need to move to a new city, start a new job, begin classes in a new school, or start new relationships.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
What Causes Fear of Change?
Fear of change can cause significant distress and interfere with daily life. The exact cause behind metathesiophobia is unknown, but several factors may contribute to its development.
The most common cause of fear of change is anxiety. People suffering from anxiety often struggle with uncertainty and unpredictability, both inherent parts of any major life transition or adjustment. This can lead to feelings of dread when faced with changes such as starting a new job, moving to a different city, or getting married.
When we experience trauma, we can become afraid of the future. Fear of another traumatic experience, fear of the same thing happening again, or simply fear of the unknown can all contribute to us being understandably fearful of change, which is why it’s crucial to know how to deal with trauma effectively.
Low self esteem
Lacking the self-confidence to make decisions (and feel good about them) is common in people who fear change. Low self-esteem can make you afraid of trusting yourself, making you unsure if you’re making the right decisions about your future.
Perfectionists find it challenging to want to “rock the boat,” when actually, imperfection is perfection. When you have an intense need for things to be perfect all the time, you might find it challenging to want to make changes in your life. That old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, can definitely apply to people who fear change.
When we feel unprepared, we can find we’re more anxious about making any change — big or small — in our life.
“Fear of change is often caused by anxiety and a negative outlook about life usually stemming from difficult childhood experiences or current conditions.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
Signs That You Have a Fear of Change
Having a fear of change can cause significant distress in your life — here are some signs that you may be struggling:
- It’s hard to make decisions: When faced with decisions, do you feel overwhelmed or paralyzed? Do you often procrastinate making decisions because of the uncertainty involved? Fear of change can make decision-making difficult as it’s hard to predict what will happen if you choose one path over another.
- You have anxiety in new situations: Do new situations fill you with dread? Even something as simple as going to a party or meeting someone new can fill you with worry if you’re afraid of how things might turn out.
- You feel “stuck”: Fear of change can keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns and relationships, unable to move forward. You might become too scared to take risks even though they could lead to positive outcomes.
- You worry about the future: If you struggle with a fear of change, you might tend to worry excessively about potential negative consequences instead of focusing on possibilities for growth and success.
- You vehemently resist change: When you’re fearful, you may resist change because you’re afraid of lacking control over situations. This can lead to further feelings of insecurity and powerlessness.
The Effects of Fearing Change
The effects of fearing change can be far-reaching and majorly impact our lives. Metathesiophobia can cause us to become overwhelmed by the thought of making any life adjustment. It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms, though, so you can take steps toward overcoming your fear.
- Difficulty adjusting to new situations: People who are afraid of change may find it difficult to adjust when something unexpected happens, such as starting a new job or moving into a different home. This could lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from surroundings.
- You develop low self-esteem: When someone has trouble accepting changes in life, they may feel like they don’t have control over their destiny, leading to low self-esteem issues. They might also feel inadequate if they can’t “keep up” with others around them who seem more capable of dealing with sudden shifts in plans or expectations.
- Poor decision-making skills: Fearful people often struggle with decision-making because they cannot make logical choices without considering all potential outcomes first, making it hard to commit fully one way or another. As a result, they may end up stuck in limbo, deciding what action should be taken next instead of taking decisive action right away. It’s important to learn how to simplify decision-making and build your intuition.
- Increased stress levels: Stress is a common side effect associated with metathesiophobia since people tend to worry excessively about how certain events will affect future outcomes. In addition, constantly worrying about things outside your control adds additional pressure, leading to further feelings of helplessness and frustration. Knowing how to stop worrying can help you stay grounded in times it matters most.
How to Overcome Fear of Change
Overcoming fear of change phobia requires understanding and accepting that it’s a natural part of life. Taking small steps can help you build confidence. The following tips can help.
Talk about it
Instead of having repressed emotions, talking about your fear with a trusted friend or family member can help you gain perspective and clarity on the situation. Discussing your feelings with someone who knows you well can provide a healthy sounding board. If talking isn’t enough, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in helping people overcome a fear of change.
Accept that things will change sometimes
One way to reduce anxiety around making changes is by accepting that change is inevitable. It’s part of life’s natural cycle. No matter how hard you try to resist, things will eventually shift and evolve — whether you want them to or not. Learning how to embrace these transitions instead of fighting them can help you move through your fears more quickly when faced with new challenges.
Making small changes first can be helpful when struggling with the fear of change. It allows you time to adjust gradually without feeling overwhelmed by drastic shifts all at once. Start by doing something simple such as changing your morning routine, taking a different route home from work, or trying out a new hobby. Each success achieved along the way builds confidence, which helps build courage when facing more significant changes in the future.
Stay focused on what you can control
When dealing with uncertainty, focus on what you can control instead of worrying about things outside your power. Instead of stressing over potential outcomes beyond your reach, focus your energy on actions within reach, like researching options, planning, and preparing mentally, emotionally, and physically. This way, when decisions need to be made, there’s less chance of you having a panic reaction.
Practice self care
Self care practices and stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, journaling for mental health, spending quality time with friends and family, engaging in hobbies, going outdoors, or even just simply taking deep breaths throughout the day are all beneficial ways to keep stress levels low. This might allow you the space you need to process emotions associated with sudden unexpected changes in life.
To manage the symptoms related to your fear of change, it’s important to recognize triggers. Seeking professional help from a certified therapist can be an effective way to start the process. Therapy can help you overcome your fears and create healthy coping mechanisms.
“There are different types of therapies that can be beneficial in helping to overcome change. Individual, family, and group psychotherapy could provide a safe space to discuss fears and explore ways to reduce them. Support groups can help people realize they’re not alone, and this helps reduce feelings of isolation that can cause depression. Groups can be empowering as members are in a position of both receiving and giving help to others in similar situations.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
Work Through Your Fears with Talkspace
Are you struggling with fear of change? It’s a common issue, and it can be difficult to overcome. Fortunately, there are ways to work through your fears and make positive changes in your life. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that provides access to licensed therapists who can help you overcome a fear of changing.
Talkspace understands the difficulty of dealing with fears about change. We strive to create an environment where you can share your fears openly. Find a convenient way to connect directly to licensed, experienced therapists when, where, and how it’s convenient for you.
- Nair M. This is why you have fear of Change & All the ways to overcome it! University of the People. https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-you-have-fear-of-change-all-the-ways-to-overcome-it/. Accessed December 22, 2022.