Phobophobia is the fear of being afraid. For some people, this means they cannot speak in public, for some it means that spiders bring about a crippling paralysis, and for others, it means they cannot mingle with society. Fears and phobias can affect leaders by inhibiting collaboration and communication.

Phobias may seem funny and strange to those who aren’t afflicted. Some phobias have come about with newer technology, such as nomophobia (fear of being without cell phone coverage). Others are unusual, such as pogonophobia (fear of beards) and sanguivoriphobia (fear of vampires). And still others are very common, including claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes).

We all have something that we are afraid of, and whether or not others see these fears as rational, they are authentic to the person suffering from them. Leaders are no exception, and finding the courage to perform under this kind of pressure can be difficult. No one should experience this kind of fear, and science is starting to unlock why we are so afraid sometimes.

A Link Between Syncope And Phobias

Neuroscience is beginning to unravel what causes phobias. Genetic and environmental factors can cause altered brain structure or changes in neurotransmitter signalling, and these changes can increase a person’s risk for conditions such as phobias. The amygdala allows us to express fear and to remember that fear response. The amygdala receives input from many other parts of the limbic system, which is where we process emotions (Martin, 2017).

Understanding the intricacies of how the parts of our brains interact with each other may help scientists find treatments for many conditions, including anxiety, depression, and phobias. A recent article has found a potential link between these types of disorders and syncope, commonly known as fainting. Syncope is very common, affecting around a third of the population, and these findings could shed light on why people suffer from psychiatric conditions (Alhuzaimi, 2018).

Find Your Courage And Explore What Triggers Your Fear Response

People suffering from severe phobias should first consider seeking professional medical help. You wouldn’t try to fix an inflamed appendix on your own, and you shouldn’t try to self-medicate or self-treat a mental condition, either. Proper medical assistance can help people handle their fear and anxiety, and taking that first step of reaching out for help is often the hardest.

Many sufferers can function in daily life, perhaps taking steps to avoid what triggers their fear response. But what if a leader has glossophobia, or the fear of speaking in public? Such a fear may have a negative impact on that person’s ability to collaborate and effectively communicate. Finding the courage to seek treatment and stick with it is challenging, so we should all be empathetic and thoughtful when working with people who suffer from phobias. 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Other coping mechanisms include:

  • Meditation or yoga. Meditation or yoga can help you in many aspects of your life, not just for handling your phobias.
  • Take a walk. Sometimes a walk in nature can give you a chance to reset, and give you perspective on what is important in your life.
  • Breathe deeply. Breathing deeply can help calm your mind and body, giving you a chance to gather your bearings before facing the issue.

Finding A Leadership Model That Helps You Face Your Fears

There are many leadership models currently available, and you may have a tough time trying to choose one. The i4 Neuroleader Model can help you retrain your brain and learn why you experience the fear response. Embracing the whole you, from the brain all the way down, is key to being the most effective, courageous and collaborative
leader possible.

We are all afraid of something. For some, these fears can shape and mold the way life is lived. However, you can escape from the prison of fear, and in the process you can unlock the true YOU.

Alhuzaimi, A., Aljohar, A., Alhadi, A. N., Aljenedil, A., & Hersi, A. S. (2018). Psychiatric traits in patients with vasovagal and unexplained syncope.International Journal of General Medicine, 11, 99–104. Martin, E. I., Ressler, K. J., Binder, E.,Nemeroff, C. B. (2009). The Neurobiology of Anxiety Disorders: Brain Imaging, Genetics, and Psychoneuroendocrinology. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 32 (3), 549–575.

Originally posted on: 17 May 2018
Last updated on: 16 September 2023

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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