What is the Fear of Missing Out, Really?

In Recovery, Sober Living by Tree House RecoveryLeave a Comment

We hear terms in recovery like “stay in the middle of the herd”, “get involved” and “be of service”. If we look at the global network of recovery like a herd, a tribe, or a community, we can take these phrases to mean it is of critical importance to our sustained sobriety to be connected with other people. Herd-mentality is such that those who find their way to the outside are more easily picked off by predators. The sober man dedicated to a lifestyle of recovery is always a prey to his addiction or alcoholism. Everyday is an opportunity for survival by living a life of freedom- thriving in recovery.

Anita Sanz, clinical psychologist, writes about ‘FOMO’, “fear of missing out” as reported by Slate. She describes that the idea of being left out is something our brains pay special attention to because of that evolutionary herd/tribe mentality. The idea or perception of being left out feels like a threat to our survival, which is why we notice it so intensely. In the brain, this perception activates the amygdala, which helps us regulate the idea of survival and what might pose as a threat to it. “Not having vital information or getting the impression that one is not a part of the ‘in’-group is enough for many individuals’ [amygdalae] to engage the stress or activation response or the ‘fight or flight’ response.” When we perceive that we are being left out, we are activating years of evolution which tell us being left out is dangerous. However, time and evolution have not better equipped us for handling that response.

The fight or flight response is supposed to engage us in action. Logically, when we are feeling left out, we should take action to make sure we are not left out. To illustrate, we should push forward into others. Most often, we retreat backwards, away from others, because our ego gets in the way.

Partially, FOMO is a response of unhealthy ego and fear. We can experience false pride when it comes to FOMO in two different ways. First, we might feel elevated ego/pride and tell ourselves we are better than or that we don’t need other people. To make ourselves seem more, we act in ego, pride, and fear to make others seem less. Second, we might feel insecure ego/pride, telling ourselves that we are so much less than, other people don’t need us or don’t want us. Both of these ego/fear based responses take action of their own and serve a purpose. The threat of rejection might be greater than the threat of missing out. Should we take the action to get more involved and take action in our own lives and not feel better or not be included that would mean something far worse than the simple perception of missing out- it would be a reality confirmed.

Through our work in recovery we can determine and evaluate our reality, confronting our ego and fear from a healthy, constructive place. We learn we have the ability to choose how we want to feel, what we want to think, and the way we live our lives. Once we realize that missing out is a perception and fear is a choice, we never have to suffer FOMO again.


Tree House Recovery is a men’s treatment program in Portland, Oregon, offering men the journey of finding freedom from addiction. Creating a sustainable recovery through sustainable change, our programs help men revolutionize their life through total transformation of mind, body, and spirit. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474

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