Mental Podcast Show

Phobias can be debilitating and have a significant impact on your life. Unfortunately, they’re also very prevalent. According to research, an estimated 9.1% of adults in the US had an identified, specific phobia within the last year — and nearly 12.5% will experience one at some point during their life. 

Phobias can cause you to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or even scared in certain situations, but there is hope. Therapy is an incredibly effective way to treat and manage phobia symptoms.

Phobia therapy helps you understand the root of your fear so you can learn to manage it better. Through treatment, you’ll begin to identify triggers for your phobia and develop effective coping strategies. You’ll also gain insight into why you developed your phobia in the first place, which can help you work through your fear. 

Read on to learn more about phobias, how you can take back control over your life, and how online therapy can be the best choice for you.

How Therapy Can Help You Overcome Phobias

Phobia therapy is an effective way to help you manage and overcome your phobias. During therapy, you’ll start addressing irrational fears associated with a particular object or situation. Seeking professional help can be vital for anyone struggling with a unique or common phobia, and knowing how to get the most out of therapy is the next step. Any form of therapy like talk therapy or behavior therapy can help you gain insight into why you developed this condition and learn how to address it.

“Fear is one thing, but phobias present a disproportionate level of anxiety about specific things and can truly hinder moving through the day-to-day business of life. Therapy or working with another professional, to gain some perspective on how to manage the onset of the associated stress and also navigate the emotions behind it, can empower you to regain control over these sometimes irrational fears, symptoms, and reactions.”

Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
Benefits of therapy for phobias

Fortunately, phobia therapy is an effective way to manage and reduce symptoms. Some of the benefits of therapy for phobias include the following:

Increased self-awareness: Therapy helps you gain insight into the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to your phobia. This increased self-awareness can help you better understand why you have certain reactions when faced with situations that trigger you.

Improve coping skills: Phobias can cause you to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance or substance use. Through therapy, you can learn how to cope with difficult emotions in healthy ways. You’ll develop and practice problem-solving skills and coping techniques so you can address issues more effectively without feeling overwhelmed.

Reduced anxiety symptoms: Therapy successfully treats phobias because it focuses on negative thought patterns associated with fear or anxiety responses. It can help you become aware of unhealthy patterns and replace them with positive ones. Ultimately, behavior therapy results in less intense emotional reactions — reduced anxiety — when faced with challenging situations.

Improved relationships and quality of life: The strategies you learn in therapy to manage phobias-related stressors like relaxation techniques or mindfulness practices might allow you to participate in activities you once avoided. This could lead to improved relationships and an enhanced quality of life.

What Are the Best Types of Therapy for Phobias?

Therapy can help you manage your fears and live a more fulfilling life. Of course, when it comes to treatment for phobias, the best type of cognitive therapy will depend on individual needs. That said, some forms of therapy are known for their efficacy in treating phobias.

Exposure therapy 

Exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for phobias. It involves gradually being exposed to your fear to desensitize yourself from it over time. This type of therapy works by helping you confront your fear head-on and learn how to cope with it in manageable steps. 

For example, if you fear flying, in the beginning, exposure therapy might involve simply looking at related pictures or videos of planes and passengers on aircraft. Then, eventually, you’ll work up to getting on an airplane and taking off. With the constant improvement of technology, virtual reality exposure therapy is now being used.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is another popular form of cognitive therapy for treating phobias. It focuses on changing negative thought patterns associated with your fear so you can better manage it in real-life situations. 

Through cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, you’ll work closely with a therapist to identify irrational thought patterns that contribute to your anxiety disorder. 

If certain conditions or objects are triggering, you can work on strategies to overcome them through cognitive restructuring techniques. These techniques include reframing negative thoughts into positive ones or challenging false assumptions about feared outcomes.

“Both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure therapy encourage insight and mindfulness to help you deconstruct rigid and specific fears about your phobia. Over time, increased mindfulness can help decrease stress and encourage more productive thoughts .”

Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
Hypnotherapy 

Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis as part of the treatment process. Hypnosis helps you relax deeply so you’re ready and able to access your subconscious mind and explore underlying issues causing your fears. 

Hypnotherapy allows you to go through this process without feeling overwhelmed emotionally. In addition, it’s been known to reduce physical symptoms associated with severe anxiety — including rapid heart rate and sweating — making it easier to control your emotions as you work through your fear. 

Eye movement desensitization & reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR therapy combines elements from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure techniques but adds eye movements into the mix. It can help you reprocess traumatic memories stored within the brain, so they no longer cause distress when recalled.

Relaxation techniques 

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, and yoga are all excellent tools for managing stress levels caused by phobic triggers.  

These activities focus on calming your body down physically and reducing tension build-up. They allow you to regain control and power so you feel less helpless or powerless.

What Happens If Phobias Are Left Untreated?

Without treatment, phobias can become more severe. You might begin avoiding situations that trigger your fear. Unfortunately, avoidance can reinforce your phobia, making it even harder to overcome in the future.

Anxiety symptoms can worsen — When you have an untreated phobia, you’ll often experience increased anxiety each time you face your fear. This intense anxiety can lead to physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, nausea, or dizziness. These symptoms are uncomfortable and can interfere with daily activities like work or school performance.

Fear can become disabling — Without a treatment option for a phobia, you might become unable to do things you once enjoyed. You may avoid certain places or activities altogether due to the intense feelings of dread you associate with them. In turn, this can lead to social isolation and decreased quality of life overall. In extreme cases, untreated phobia might lead to depression and other mental health conditions if left unchecked for too long.

Alternatives to Therapy for Phobias

Exploring alternatives to therapy for phobias can be a great way to relieve extreme fear and anxiety. These tactics can be even more effective when used as one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. 

Medications for treating phobias

For some people, medication can be an effective way to treat phobias. It can help reduce intense anxiety and fear. Common medications occasionally used in the treatment of phobias might include: 

Antidepressants

Anti-anxiety drugs

Beta-blockers

Sedatives

A doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe these medications after assessing your symptoms and medical history. It’s important to note that these common psychiatric medications are not a cure for phobia. Instead, they help manage the associated symptoms.

Natural remedies for treating phobias

Natural remedies such as herbs and supplements might help reduce anxiety levels associated with phobias. While in most cases, more research is needed, some popular natural remedies some people have found effective include: 

Kava kava root extract

Passionflower extract

Chamomile tea

Lavender oil aromatherapy 

Magnesium supplements 

Keep in mind, even though these might help reduce severe anxiety levels associated with phobia symptoms in some people, they should only be taken under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional who can monitor effectiveness over time.

Get Personalized Phobia Treatment with Talkspace 

Our online therapy platform offers tailored treatment plans designed specifically for individual needs, including phobia therapy. With Talkspace, you can access professional mental health care from the comfort of your own home. We connect you with licensed therapists experienced in treating phobias and other anxiety-related issues.

With Talkspace, you can receive effective, personalized phobia treatment to overcome your fears and gain confidence to live a life free from intense fear. With the right treatment option, you can learn how to manage your symptoms and gain control over your life. Learn how to start therapy today.

Sources:

Specific phobia. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia. Accessed December 9, 2022. 

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