Fear of Change – Metathesiophobia

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Change is scary. You probably don’t need me to tell you that. Even when you are faced with exciting changes like going to college or entering into a romantic relationship, anxiety may still surface. This is totally normal, and we can trace this anxiety back to some of our earliest days as a human race.

In general, you shouldn’t worry if you experience some anxiety when going through change. But no one should let their fear of change hold them back from experiencing life. If the fear of change is “bad” enough, it may be considered a phobia that will need treatment from a professional to manage or overcome. 

Let’s take a look at that fear, where it comes from, and what you can do right now to address any fears that might be holding you back. 

What Is the Fear of Change Called? 

The fear of change is also called metathesiophobia. Metathesiophobia is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5,) but is very real. The fear of change can hold many people back from living their life to the fullest or even escaping real dangers.

Some psychologists associate the fear of change with the fear of movement (trypophobia.)

Is Fear of Change Normal? 

Absolutely! From an evolutionary standpoint, a fear of change makes sense. Predictability and routine have always been safe for humans. We know when we’re eating, when we are sleeping, and generally how to avoid predators or threats. Change throws us off and potentially puts us in danger. 

In fact, research shows that our brains see no difference between uncertainty and failure. That might sound dramatic, but it’s true! Our brains need to have answers and anticipate the next steps to feel successful. No wonder we fear change - it’s like fearing failure, which is completely normal, too!

We don’t have to worry about the same types of threats and uncertainties the early humans worried about, but our brains are wired very similarly! Seeing an ex triggers the same “fight-or-flight” response that early humans experienced when they faced a wild boar or lion. The fear of change we experience when thinking about getting married is similar to the fear of change an earlier human might have felt leaving their homeland to wander in the desert. Knowing this, you can begin to separate yourself from the anxiety you’re feeling in your body and make more rational objective decisions.

Symptoms of Fear of Change 

  • Panic attacks 
  • Shaking or trembling at the thought of change
  • Depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Using controlled substances (drugs, alcohol, etc.) to manage your fear 
  • Isolating yourself to avoid change 
  • Staying in relationships that you know are causing you harm 

Can You Be Diagnosed With a Fear of Change?

There is no specific diagnosis for metathesiophobia. If you do think that metathesiophobia is seriously affecting your life, reach out to a mental health professional. They can offer coping mechanisms and treatment options for your symptoms. Even without a diagnosis, a professional can help you address the fear of change.

How Fear of Change Holds Us Back 

A fear is considered a phobia when it prevents us from living a healthy, productive life. The fear of change is very normal when it makes us think twice about change, but doesn’t completely paralyze us as we move into the next stages of our life. If you have experienced anything close to these examples of metathesiophobia, you may want to consider working with a mental health professional to manage your fear. 

Examples of Fear of Change 

Switching Jobs 

Your job is causing you a great amount of anxiety. Every day, you wake up dreading work. More than anything, you want to switch career paths and spend your days doing something that brings you joy. But in the moments before you start browsing through jobs or looking at higher education courses, you stop yourself. You know what you want to do with your life, but the idea of pursuing it and “failing” keeps you working in the same crappy job. 

Leaving an Unhealthy Relationship 

You’ve been dating the same person for five years, and you know the relationship is abusive. Every day, you are scared of getting hurt. All your friends and family remind you that there are other fish in the sea who will treat you better than your current partner. But you don’t leave your partner. All your stuff is their stuff, you share friends, and you tell yourself that no one wants to date someone at your age. Part of you also wonders if the next person you date will be more abusive or unpredictable than your current partner. At least, after five years of dating the same person, you know when they are most likely to be harmful.

Breaking Free From Your Parents

All your life, you have lived under the watchful eye of your parents. They have set strict rules for you. Even though these rules make you miserable, you have always followed them carefully. You don’t know anything else! As an adult, you realize people can live outside of the rules that you’ve lived under and be happy, healthy adults. The more you are exposed to people in the “outside world,” the more you want to join them. But what if your parents are right? What if stepping outside what you’ve always known will result in failure? The moment you start to ask yourself those questions, you re-dedicate yourself to living with your parents, even though you are miserable. 

Reminiscing On The Good Days 

High school was a great four years of your life. You had great friends, did well in school, and were very happy. The idea of going to college and losing everything you had in high school scares you. You don’t want to apply for college at all and consider finding a job in your neighborhood, even though you know you can do better. Instead of dreaming about the next chapter of your life, you find yourself reliving the same high school memories. 

Yes, you can still survive by giving in to your fear of change and staying where you are. A dead-end job isn’t going to kill you. But there are some cases where the fear of change can lead people to stay in unsafe situations. In situations like the second example, addressing your fear of change might actually save your life. 

How to Overcome the Fear of Change on Your Own

It is possible to work through fear and anxiety by making small changes to your lifestyle. You may not overcome your fear of change overnight, but you may begin to ease the anxiety you associate with change or movement. Meditation, journaling, and writing to-do lists are great places to start. 


Take a few moments to sit with yourself in silence before you make plans or think about your big change. Listen to a guided meditation or just listen to the ambient noises around you. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out, consciously breathing each step of the way.

Meditation is more than just some woo-woo practice. The deep, slow breaths help counteract the “fight-or-flight” response that is often triggered as we face our fears. Slow breathing tells the body and mind that we are safe and away from harm. In this mindset, you can think about change without the emotional part of the brain dominating the conversation. 


Writing about our emotions actually uses a different part of the brain than simply thinking about them in our heads. Take some time to write about change. What are you afraid of? What good things could happen if you make a change in your life? Who do you see around you who is making changes, and how can their experiences help you? As you write these things down, you might find that you see change differently and feel calmer when thinking about change. 

Writing a To-Do List 

Change isn’t just scary; it can be downright overwhelming. Focusing on the small steps it takes to achieve change can make this transition less scary. Instead of thinking about how to quit partying so often, consider giving yourself a hard curfew on Saturday nights. Instead of thinking about changing careers, consider updating your LinkedIn profile. These small steps may not seem like a dramatic step forward, but that’s a good thing. If you took one of these small steps every day for a year, just think of how much you could accomplish!

Treatments for Fear of Change 

Small, individual steps can help deal with the fear of change in the present moment. But if the fear of change seems to be rooted in something deeper, you may want to reach out to a mental health professional. 

Not all therapists, counselors, or professionals are the same. Each type of person or approach handles the fear of change differently. Do supplemental research and schedule consultations before you book your first appointment. 


Therapists who use a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach address many of the concepts discussed throughout this post. CBT is based on the idea that our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions all connect. If left unchecked, for example, our “fight-or-flight” response may lead to a fear of change and influence our decisions to move forward with our lives. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapists will speak with you about the thoughts you are experiencing, the feelings you are experiencing, and show you how these connect to your symptoms. Through various exercises or just regular sessions, you may begin to address your thoughts and feelings more objectively and make more productive decisions for your life. 


Not interested in therapy? Other people and practitioners can help you address your fear of change and get your feelings out in the open. An NLP practitioner is one of these people. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a practice aimed at “rewiring” our thought patterns so that we can see the world, or even address our fears, differently. Like CBT, NLP sees the connection between the way we think and how we behave or make decisions.  


Hypnotherapy works similarly to meditation. It puts you in a calm state and gives you the opportunity to see change in a different light. You can listen to hypnotherapy sessions online or reach out to a hypnotherapist who can help you address specific fears and transitions you are experiencing. 

Life or Business Coaching

Another alternative to therapy is reaching out to a life or business coach. Coaches take a slightly different approach than therapists. They are not instructed to give advice unless you, their client, ask for advice. Instead, they ask questions aimed to help you discover answers on your own.  

The fear of change does not have to hold you back from living the life you want to live. Take a small step today and you too can overcome (or manage) your fear of change.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, May). Fear of Change - Metathesiophobia. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/fear-of-change-metathesiophobia/.

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