How to Overcome a Fear of Scary Rides
Co-authored by Tasha Rube, LMSW
Updated: April 6, 2019
Rides at amusement parks and carnivals are meant to thrill and excite their riders. Understandably, this thrill isn’t for everyone, at least at first. They can, though, be a tremendous amount of fun, and a great way to spend time with friends and family. By learning more about these rides, and what makes you afraid of going on them, you can get yourself in line for one, and survive the first trip to help you go again and again with others.
Part One of Three:
Thinking About Your Fear
Identify what scares you about the ride. Consider what about the ride actually scares you, and makes you want to not go on. There can be many reasons why you don’t enjoy or want to go on scary rides. It could be the speed, the turns, or the feeling of falling you’ll get while on it, or even a traumatic experience you had on a ride before. By identifying what it is that makes you scared, you can take more concrete steps to overcome that specific fear.
Look at pictures of the ride, watch where it goes. See if there are particular things about the ride that scare you, like going upside down on a roller coaster. Imagine yourself going through the ride, and how you would feel when you go through it.
Study the rides. Look at what they are trying to do to scare you, as well as the safety features. Understanding how the rides work, and how they can keep you safe, will help you feel more comfortable getting on them.
Remember that you are in a safe environment. These rides work because people remember that they are in a safe area, and that nothing bad will actually happen to them. Scary rides are able to create a reaction by overstimulating your senses, like using sudden sounds and weird sensations in a haunted house, but will not put you in real danger.
Set a goal for going on the ride. Maybe you just want to say you did it, or are trying to impress someone. It doesn’t need to be an earth-shattering goal, but something manageable like going on the ride once. Having a goal or reason for getting on the ride can help motivate you to actually give it a shot, and smaller goal will make it easier to follow through and have success.
Talk to other people. Talk to your friends about going on these rides. Make sure they know that you are scared, but that you want to overcome this fear. Good friends will understand, and try to help where they can.
When you talk to your friends, ask them why they enjoy going on these rides. It’s not unusual to be a little afraid of scary rides, as the point is to give you a thrill. Ask about how they overcame their fears to enjoy the ride.
Part Two of Three:
Getting Yourself on the Ride
Slowly expose yourself to the rides. Before jumping on line, spend some time exposing yourself to a scary ride. Look at pictures and video of it online so you can see it in action, and what you would do while on it. If you go to a theme park or carnival, walk by the ride and watch it in action. The more you see of it, the more comfortable you will be around it. This is exposure therapy, a common method for overcoming fears.
Get in line for the ride. One way to help push yourself on to the ride is to put yourself in a position where you have to go on one. Maybe tell your friends you’ll definitely ride it, or buy an expensive ticket to the park. Make it very difficult for yourself to back out of going on the ride.
Do your best to forget past times where you avoided the ride, or got in line only to back out. Don’t dwell on the past, but instead stay focused on the future, that this time you will go on the ride.
Avoid catastrophizing. This is a common type of negative thinking, where you can only think of a worst-case scenario when you think about going on a scary ride. This could be something like worrying about falling out of a roller coaster each time it goes upside down.
Use relaxation techniques to stay calm. Before you get on line, or get on the ride, use some mindfulness techniques to help relax yourself. These simple exercises are great for reducing your stress and tension, which will make you feel better as you approach the ride.
Progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise involves you slowly clenching and relaxing the muscles in your body. Tense for about 5 seconds, then relax for 30, thinking not just about moving your muscles, but how it feels when they are relaxed. It can help to start in one part of your body, maybe down at your feet, and work your way up your body, tensing and relaxing all your muscles in succession.
Controlled breathing. Take a normal breath, then a deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose, and let the air fill your lungs and abdomen. Exhale slowly–it’s best to do so through your mouth, but it can be through your nose, if that is more comfortable.
Part Three of Three:
Enjoying Your Ride
Try out the seats. Some rides will have seats available for you to sit in before getting on the ride. These are mostly to make sure you will fit properly, but trying them out can be a good way to get more comfortable with what you are doing.
Get on the ride. The best way to face your fear is to push past it and get on board. You’ve come this far. You’ve learned about the ride, relaxed yourself, stood in line, and now you are here. Get in the seat, let the attendant strap you in, and get ready to roll.
Hold on to the bar. Most rides will have some type of “grab bar” or other restraint that’s meant to help hold you into the ride. It might make you feel more secure to grab hold of the restraint. It won’t actually make you any safer, but can be a pleasant reminder that something is there to hold you in.
Keep your eyes open. When the ride takes off, you will be tempted to squeeze your eyes shut until it’s over. Don’t do that. Instead, let your eyes guide you along the track, watching what comes next. Being able to see what follows will help make you feel more in control of what’s coming.
Go a second time. Once you’ve gone on the ride, great. Now get back in line and go again. Going on rides more often helps habituate you to it, and will make you even more comfortable as you go along.
What if I am afraid of trying a ride, but still want to try?
Open yourself to new things. If you really don’t want to go on it, you don’t have to.
I’m most scared of falling from the ride because I’m really thin. The park only has height requirements. Am I at risk of falling?
No, you will not fall out of the ride. There are safety harnesses to keep you in the ride at all times, and the attendants would not let you on if they thought you were too small to go on it.
What if a person tries to force you to go on a scary ride and you really don’t want to?
Going on the ride has to be your choice. If you are really uncomfortable with going on the ride, and you are not ready for it, don’t go. It doesn’t matter what other people say.
What can I do to calm down while my heart is racing?
Just take deep breaths. Your adrenaline will kick in and you’ll probably start having fun in no time.
Is it normal to have a nervous feeling in your stomach when you go on rides?
Yes it is. When you try something new you are most likely going to have butterflies in your stomach. Rides can also make your stomach turn because of the speed and way they move.
What if you are scared of a very fast ride?
Don’t look down while on the ride. Try taking deep, slow breaths if you are scared. Just relax and remember the rides are perfectly safe and meant to be fun.
Why do you want to encourage yourself?
To make yourself a little better about the ride. For example, you could talk to yourself when you’re scared, as a way to build up courage. Say things like: “I can do this” and “I’ll be okay!”.
How can I overcome my fear of being upside down on a roller coaster?
Take someone you trust or feel safe with you. You can also try asking the employee managing the ride questions about its safety features. Hearing more about the ride from someone familiar with it can help you feel less scared.
What should I do if my seatbelt feels loose, but the employee doesn’t hear me telling them that?
You should do something to get their attention to make sure they hear you.
What if I get on a ride that I know I can’t handle, don’t want to ruin it for everyone else?
If you know you can’t handle something, don’t go on it. Going on something too wild for you can make you sick or in some cases pass out. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone, but never too far.
Remember, you don’t have to enjoy going on scary rides. Some people’s brain chemistry just doesn’t allow them to enjoy the experience. At the very least, you want to be able to get on the ride with your friends without seizing up in fear.
Wanting to go on a ride is an opportunity to get in better shape. Getting in better physical shape can help you reduce stress, and also make it more likely you can fit comfortably in those ride seats.
Rides are meant to thrill you and evoke a response. Go ahead and scream as it goes along. You won’t be the only one.
If you are still scared when you reach the end of the line get on the ride and think ” Well, there’s no turning back now.”
When you decide to get on a ride, remember to follow all the posted rules. They are meant to make sure you are as safe as possible during the ride, and that nothing happens to you or other riders.
Help Your Child Overcome Fears
Overcome Your Fear of Roller Coasters
Deal With Motion Sickness on Rides
Use a Flash Pass at Six Flags
Enjoy a Theme Park
Go to Everland
Wait in Line for an Amusement Park Ride
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Ride Kingda Ka
Take Action when You Lose Sight of Your Child at an Amusement Park
Visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Visit Legoland Florida
Visit Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
About This Article
Tasha Rube, LMSW
Licensed Master Social Worker
This article was co-authored by Tasha Rube, LMSW. Tasha Rube is a Licensed Master Social Worker in Missouri. She received her MSW from the University of Missouri in 2014.
Updated: April 6, 2019
Article Rating: 86% – 14 votes
Categories: Amusement and Theme Parks | Fear
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