My wife doesn’t like spiders in the house. When she gets surprised by one, she’ll express that “Eek! A spider!” response. She’s afraid of spiders.
Are you afraid of the dentist?
Fear is an immediate response to a perceived threat. Until a spider comes along, my wife feels perfectly fine.
After a spider encounter? Well, it’ll take her a minute or so to shake it off.
Anxiety is different. That’s where you stress over things before they actually happen… You refuse to enter that old tool shed, because it might be full of spiders or other creepy crawlers… You refuse to go to the dentist because it might hurt.
I’ve heard lots of people claim to have . Yet for the last 25+ years of being a dentist, I’ve never once heard anyone say “Eek! A dentist!”
I have seen some true dental phobics. My mother was one. She couldn’t even come visit me at the dental office. That level of phobia is less common nowadays.
That being said, LOTS of people are anxious about going to the dentist. That’s one of our profession’s biggest challenges – helping people overcome dental anxiety.
Look beneath the anxiety to find the true fear.
Beneath that anxiety there’s often a fear factor. Fear of pain is a big one. Fear of needles. Fear of confined spaces. Fear of losing control. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of the unknown. All that gets wrapped up in so-called fear of the dentist. We’re an easy target to blame.
Let me put it another way. If you were terrified of heights and were taken to the top of a tall building with big glass windows, you would be afraid to look out those big windows. You’re not afraid of big windows or looking out of them. You’re afraid of heights. The windows are the conduit of your true fear, not the source.
That’s how it is with dentists. Look beneath the anxiety to find the true fear.
For clarity, I’ll outline some differences between fear and anxiety.
Here’s a sweet little for posting.The Fear Factor
Fear and anxiety are often confused. Easy to do because they feel similar and one typically begets the other. Fear leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to fear.
Confused? Brian Clark of Copyblogger explains the difference between fear and anxiety in his article Is F.E.A.R. Holding You Back?
Watch this video of a Bill Cosby comedy skit about the horrors of visiting the dentist… =>
At the time, people found that skit incredibly funny. Back in those days, fear of the dentist was widespread and strong emotions can be a shortcut to your funny-bone.
Fear is a direct response to a threatening situation. For example, unexpectedly coming face to face with a spider. If that’s a particular focus for your fear, you’ll get a strong reaction.
Imagine for a moment walking down a dark street late at night. You’re tired and look forward to sleeping, when suddenly some street punk jumps out and points a gun to your head demanding money. You would feel startled and a rush of adrenaline would put you into a hyper-alert state.
Unless you have nerves of steel, you’ll experience a full-blown fight-or-flight response. You’ll break out in a sweat and your heart will almost be jumping out of your chest.
Top 10 Fears
- Snakes 51%
- Public Speaking 40%
- Heights 36%
- Confined Spaces 34%
- Spiders 27%
- Needles and Injections 21%
- Mice 20%
- Flying on a plane 18%
- (Tie) Dogs, Crowds, Thunder 11%
- Going to a Doctor 9%