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Monday, Feb. 16, 2015


Don’t let fear take over

No one ever said change was easy, and for some it can be teetering near impossible. Committing to major life changes, decisions or adjustments is an expected part of life’s journey, but for those with the fear of commitment, also known as commitment phobia, taking the steps to change can leave them paralyzed with anxiety.

Oftentimes, the concept of commitment phobia may be surrounding relationships or marriage – individuals avoiding long-term commitments to a partner due in part to their fears of that idea. The condition, however, can affect more of life’s functions than just interpersonal relationships; some may have a fear of committing to a big move, a new direction and often a new job.

Whether it’s taking a sharp turn in career paths or making the jump to a new promotion, any change in occupation can prove overwhelming to a commitment phobe. The emotions and symptoms that come with having a fear of commitment may include anxiety, which can cause someone to feel uneasy, worrisome, nervous and fearful. Should the anxiety persist into a clinical disorder, diagnostic criteria include excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least six months, difficulty in controlling the worry, restlessness or feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension and sleep disturbance, according to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition.”

Overcoming commitment phobia and confidently venturing into a new job or position has no quick fix. Depending on the amount of dysfunction the symptoms are causing, professional help may need to be sought. Counselors, career counselors or even a professional mentor may prove useful in overcoming significant anxiety in making major life changes. The benefit of seeking a counselor is that it provides the opportunity to process the thoughts, concerns and feelings associated with the fear of making a big decision. Offering a safe space to share one’s innermost emotions, there is no added pressure or stress from the helping professional.

An evidence-based practice used by many counselors is cognitive-behavior therapy.

The idea behind this type of intervention is that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all influenced and interdependent on one another. The messages we receive, or the thoughts we have, are in turn related to the way we feel – about ourselves or even about an event or situation – which then influences how we act and behave. In this respect, it would be pertinent to know what the personal thoughts an individual was having when dealing with a commitment issue.

What is fueling the fear surrounding the job change? Furthermore, what is the message that individual is receiving from it? If the thought is negative, and there is evidence of continual negative self-talk, a helpful idea might be to challenge the message with a more positive, rational statement. The goal would be to change the way in which the problem is viewed, effecting more positive feelings and influencing more productive and confident behavior.

Another helpful idea in overcoming a fear of commitment is to have an understanding on how fearful thinking plays a role in creating excessive worry, exacerbating more fears and triggering anxiety symptoms.

Gaining insight into how fear and worry are oftentimes ways in which to avoid making a decision may help with overcoming it as well.

Try to examine the probability of the fear actually occurring, what the consequences might be and the ability to effectively manage the situation. This can be a tool of empowerment, which can help to build confidence and selfesteem – constructs that are useful in making major life changes like a switch in career.

Additionally, empowering oneself can also include identifying and replacing the fearful, negative self-talk with more reality-based and positive ideas.


An important part of overcoming any hurdle is the balance of being able to relax. Take time to meditate, be mindful of the present moment or relax the body in order to ensure a healthy body and mind.

Keeping a journal of gratitude or positive goals and ideas can also be a good way to stay on track during the transition of making a big career decision, as well as staying in touch with a support network of friends, family or a counselor. Ultimately, it’s important to pay attention to the thoughts and emotions associated with commitment phobia and to reach out for help if it’s needed.


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