Health and Fitness

Fighting Phobias: How Therapists Help You Fight Your Fears

Presented by BetterHelp.

Many people have fears that are well-grounded in reality, but many others experience fears that may not be entirely rational. If someone experiences a severe fear response to something that generally doesn’t produce that response in others, they may be diagnosed with a specific phobia, a mental health condition characterized by disproportionate fear in response to certain objects or situations

What makes something a phobia?

Many people experience a fear response in excess of the response of those around them for at least a few things. For example, a person may know that they are afraid of spiders more than others in their friend group and might react with a stronger fear if they encounter a spider. However, the mere presence of a fear does not amount to a phobia. 

A phobia is associated with both a fear or anxiety response and avoidance. To meet the clinical definitions of a phobia, a person must be significantly impacted by their fear in daily life. A person afraid of spiders might take steps to avoid them, but if those steps interfere with their ability to live their life, they might have a phobia. For example, someone who avoids going into the arachnid exhibit at the zoo, but has no other avoidance behaviors, likely does not have a clinical phobia. On the other hand, someone who fears leaving their home because they might encounter a spider might meet the criteria for diagnosis. 

How do therapists treat phobias?

Phobias are most often treated using psychotherapy, although sometimes medication can be used if fears are especially severe. A therapist works with their patient to determine the best course of treatment. Some of the more common approaches include: 

Mindfulness training

Mindfulness techniques help someone manage the initial rush of fear caused by their phobia. Often, multiple techniques are used. A person might start by breathing slowly and deeply (likely one of the most effective ways to release tension), then consciously manage their thought process to avoid panic. Therapists often work with their patients to determine how to apply mindfulness techniques appropriately. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) leverages many mindfulness techniques to help a person conquer irrational thought processes. For example, those with phobias often tend to imagine the worst-case scenario associated with their fears. CBT can help them approach their phobia more realistically, disrupting the maladaptive thought processes that produce an overwhelming fear reaction. 

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of behavior therapy, and there are multiple forms a therapist may choose. One of the most common and effective is exposure and response prevention, otherwise known as ERP therapy. In ERP therapy, a therapist helps their patient slowly desensitize themselves to their phobia while helping them manage adverse emotional reactions that can reinforce feelings of fear and anxiety. 

ERP therapy has demonstrated strong effectiveness when treating intrusive thought processes, such as those that occur in a strong fear response. It has also been established as a particularly effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In OCD, a person believes that something adverse or unpleasant will happen unless they perform certain actions. Have a look at this Betterhelp article for more information about how ERP therapy can treat OCD:

Are phobia treatments effective?

A review of over 40 years of psychological research demonstrates the effectiveness of treatments used to address phobias. In fact, specific phobias are one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder, and the work done to address the adverse impact of extreme fear has led to many advances in the treatment of anxiety. If you’re challenged by an intense fear or anxiety, reaching out to a mental health professional will likely be helpful. They can give you the tools to address your adverse feelings and reduce their impact on your life. 

One Comment

  • Apart Cy

    Oo napakahalaga talaga if nakaranas tayo Nito
    We must Visit an Mental health Professionals,para mabigyan ng advice and Thanks for sharing this

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