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September 17, 2023

How to Support Someone Feeling Frightened

Equipping individuals with strategies for when they feel frightened.

What do you do when an individual in your care feels scared?

Fear is a useful emotion. It teaches caution and helps prevent us from taking unnecessary risks. We don’t want to stop the people in our care from feeling this way, but we do want to equip them with the strategies they need to manage this feeling and overcome it.

Some individuals are afraid of nothing. Others seem scared of everything — both extremes are natural. You might like nothing better than a late-night horror movie before bed, while someone else would have nightmares for a week if they did that!

Common fears include:

    • Loud noises, like thunder, fireworks, and alarms

    • New situations, such as starting school or a new setting

    • Strangers and unfamiliar people

    • The dark

    • Specific phobias that are common to many people, such as spiders, flying and clowns, or less common, such as buttons or balloons

Many individuals can find it hard to separate fantasy from reality. These experiences are very vivid and feel real. They may also experience fears about real-life situations, like extreme weather or being attacked. They may worry about events they hear about on the TV, such as war, even though it may be happening in a distant country.

As professionals, we too have fears. Sometimes, there will be a very real reason why we might feel afraid of something. Other fears will seem inexplicable, or we’ve forgotten what happened to give rise to the fear in the first place.

How to help when an individual feels scared

Fears often coincide with developmental stages and increased experiences of the world. It is important for us to know and understand an individual’s fears so that we can respond appropriately and minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Sometimes, you can predict an issue and mitigate it, such as giving an individual ear defenders to wear and showing on a visual timetable that a planned fire alarm will happen that day. We can also help individuals develop coping strategies, rather than seeking to simply eliminate triggers.

However, there are times when a fear will be unknown or happen by surprise.

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