How to overcome fear of fainting

This article is about overcoming an irrational fear of fainting. If you regularly feel light-headed, dizzy, or faint unexpectedly, please seek medical advice.

Dana wrote…

“Hello, about 2 years ago I pierced my finger with a staple while opening a package and fainted at home. Ever since then I have had a chronic fear of fainting again.

It’s whenever I go out in public the consistent thoughts of ‘I hope I don’t pass out’ just play through my head like a tape recorder and eventually I just panic and have to go sit down to calm down, and get a grip on reality that it’s not real and that I physically have no reason whatsoever that I would pass out.

I truly believe that I won’t pass out and the thoughts are irrational and also its not really ME thinking this stuff but my mind running wild and its almost like a habit to think this way. I try to live in the present moment but I just feel sometimes that its so hard to break from these irrational thoughts and control my mind.

What would you suggest I do to finally take control of this thought and eliminate it for good? Thank you so much!!!”

© Geeta Nambiar

This is a great case of our minds being dysfunctional — not serving our best interests. I can relate to your problem, I remember I was very “mental” back in school…

I used to run through difficult/embarrassing scenarios in my mind, and of course that attention made the problem worse…

Naturally, I assumed I needed to THINK about the problem in order to get rid of it and solve it (BIG mistake!) For example, I remember going through a spell where I kept thinking “I hope I don’t blush. It’ll be terrible if I blush, everyone will look at me and that will be really embarrassing”…

And then of course I would imagine how embarrassed and awkward I would feel if I blushed, and guess what… I would blush… How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy? :-) And of course, but for the thought, and then the attention to the thought, it would never have happened.

Of course, what I should have done is NOT given that thought my attention. Equally, to overcome your fear of fainting, you want to calmly NOT give your attention to the thought “I hope I don’t pass out”. What you want is calm distraction. However, stressing about NOT thinking the thought won’t do… that’s just another form of attention to it.

In the same vein, the frustration you feel when the thought pops up is counter-productive. That trains your brain that this is important, that this is something that needs your attention, a problem that needs resolving. This is TOTALLY understandable of course, we’re trained to put attention on perceived problems.

But what you want is the opposite — you want a calm decision to simply not engage with the thought, to calmly distract onto something else right away…

And that Dana, is how you overcome fear of fainting :-)

Best wishes,
James Riddett

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6 thoughts on “How to overcome fear of fainting

  1. Hi James,

    Thanks so much for the response! I think what’s most significant about this whole experience is the fact that I really can appreciate the sense of clarity and peace I have when I don’t have the irrational thoughts of passing out and become overwhelmed.. when all is said and done and I’ve moved on forward from this situation I will really cherish the peace of mind I have.

    One problem I have been having lately is the fact that I find its almost habitual to think about the “What if I pass out” thought.

    It’s almost as if I have moved on but my mind didn’t get the memo. For instance, certain places I’ve been when I’ve thought about it in the past will trigger those thoughts in the present.

    Honestly some times I feel like my mind is trying to sabotage myself from healing from this.. like out of nowhere the thought will just suddenly pop in for no reason and I say to myself.. why would I even think of that in the situation??? Its so random!

    I try to remove the irrational thought but it seems to just stick. I would love tools for myself to come back to focusing on the “Now”. Also tools for myself to break the initial habit of even thinking the thought in general..

    I think that’s the most important because without the initial thought there IS nothing. What would you suggest I try to help break the habit and focusing on the “now”?

    Thanks again so much!

  2. Hi Dana,

    I laughed when I read your comment because of the truth contained in it. There is a big distinction between “me” and “my mind”.

    “Its almost as if I have moved on but my mind didn’t get the memo.” This is a nice way to put it :-)

    Strange as it sounds my advice to you is to stop thinking about this problem. All you need to do is distract yourself when you get the unwanted thought. In fact, anything else is probably counter-productive.

    You’re thinking about how nice it will be when you’ve solved this problem, ie. when you stop having this unwanted thought.

    But of course – this is giving attention, and importance to the problem, the unwanted thought. This is training your brain in the wrong direction, so to speak. You’re telling your brain “this is important” and therefore reinforcing it.

    Strangely, the way to approach this is to sort of not care if you have the thought or not… otherwise you’re emotionally charging and labelling it as “important” to your brain. Again, thinking of it as a problem to be solved is really counter-productive.

    All you really need is this: when you have the thought, rivet your attention onto something else. It doesn’t matter what – it could be anything – it just needs to fill your attention. :-)

    My own favorite at school was to “reset” my brain, as I called it, so I could start from a blank sheet of paper, as it were (ie, no thoughts) and then fill the space with a description of the person I wanted to be. “I’m perfectly fine, I’m a friendly, confident person. I don’t worry about what other people think…” etc.

    Of course, these affirmations can have a positive impact in themselves but the most important thing was to interrupt my unwanted thought by thinking about something else.

    It’s understandable, but try not to think about solving this problem :-) Just go about your life, don’t watch for the thought, don’t anticipate it. Just calmly distract when it pops up.

    If you find it keeps popping back up, don’t stress it. Just keep distracting for as long as you can and it will get easier and easier. If you can avoid the triggers of the unwanted thought, great. But the key – oddly – is to stop trying to solve the problem.

    Just distract when needed.

    It really all boils down to attention. While your attention is on something other than your unwanted thought, there is no problem. When your unwanted thought pops up, it has your attention. So then you calmy rivet your attention onto something else.

    Your brain then gets retrained to the point where the unwanted thought no longer pops up because your brain has realised that it’s not important, that it’s of no use to you.

    Does that make sense, do you see the logic of that?

    Of course habitual thinking and doing is extremely useful (vital in fact) in everyday life. Useful habit thoughts and actions get our attention, they get “played out”, so they get even further entrenched in our routines.

    Equally, when attention is deliberately removed from a habitual thought or action, you’re retraining your brain, you’re effectively saying “this is not useful to me, decrease its importance” until eventually it stops occuring altogether…

    Hope this helps :-) Happy Guide will tell you more about attention, and really clarify this for you.

    Best wishes,
    James

  3. Hi James,

    Thanks again for the responses!

    I was kind of trying to find things to say about how I’ve been feeling about my “situation” and I just cant seem to come up with anything lol!

    I’m a very realistic person and after reading what you said and putting it into action I just.. dont think about it any more..!

    I know it’s just a habitual thought and nothing more.. not a real disease or a mental illness.. just a thought… which isn’t real at all. I’ve just been calmly distracting.. like you suggested which really keeps me be well.. lol calm and in control and I just live my life and don’t pay any attention to it.

    And I understand where you say it gets easier and easier to not think about it.. it’s because the habit of the thought slowly fades away as you start to forget about it… and then finally dissapears for good.

    And if it ever pops up again as a memory it’s even easier to forget because its not even a mental pattern at that point. now im not saying im at 100% yet.. but everything is a process and takes time.. But whenever I’ve set a goal in my life for myself I’ve done it and a huge one is to live my life to the fullest and im definately on the right track!

    Honestly from the bottom of my heart I really appreciate the fact that you have responded to me because you really have no obligation to at all.. you don’t know me…you dont owe me anything.. and yet you still do right away and you don’t hide anything.

    Thank you!

  4. You’re welcome Dana :-) I’m delighted things are good with you. Keep on the same track now – don’t be tempted to change what’s working for you.

    Best wishes,
    James

  5. Hey James,

    After reading this post, it helped me to have hope that my irrational fear of fainting will soon pass.

    To be honest with you, I don’t know why I have the fear of fainting. Because I have never had a fainting episode. However, I have come close several times (mostly in the past). When I was younger and I would get out of bed too fast at night or in the morning, things would seem to get black and blurry and I would have to sit down because I would feel like I was going to fall over. The same thing happened recently, but I never actually fainted. I just saw things getting black when I was taking a shower, and I quickly sat down. The incident really shook me up, and I think that is why I am now so fearful that an event like that will occur again.

    I honestly do believe that I only feels as though I am going to faint because of my anxiety and constant fear that I am going to pass out. But recently I have been worried that it may be due to some underlying medical issue. I know that it sounds really silly because as I said I have never actually fainted before. Therefor, I really truly do believe and hope that I am just overthinking the situation entirely, and that is why I feel like I am going to faint.

    I really need help getting over this fear. I have been trying to keep the thought out of my mind as frequently as possible, but it has become difficult to completely silence the thought because it always pops up again when I am feeling anything but well. Any slight tired feeling or dizziness makes me believe that I am going to faint. And then I get all worked up!

    Any advice as to how I can overcome this irrational fear would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica,

      I would say that a couple of near-fainting incidents have put the idea of fainting “on your radar.” Our blood pressure is lowest when we’re asleep so you can certainly get up too fast and feel faint. When you get up out of bed, always give your body a few seconds to adjust.

      You could get your blood pressure checked. If it’s a little low, it can explain feeling faint. And if it’s fine, or you feel sure it’s purely psychological, you can forget about it and just distract from/ignore every occurrence of the thought, as described in the article.

      It’s worth mentioning as well that our overall “state” is directly related to these things. If we spend a good deal of time stressed or anxious, we’re much more likely to experience this kind of issue. An anxious state causes anxious thoughts. So it’s important to setup our lives so we’re living in a natural, relaxed, healthy state. In that feel-good state, this type of thing tends not to pop up.

      All the best,
      James

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