Phobias come in many varieties. There are specific phobias like the fear of flying, animals, storms, needles, bridges and so on. The fear of humiliation and judgment underlies social phobias such as the fear of public speaking and social situations. Phobias limit people, regardless of type. While they may seem vastly different in nature, all phobias have some things in common. First of all, sufferers of phobias know that their fear of a given activity, situation, or object is irrational – the fear goes far beyond the actual danger. Phobias also instill extreme terror and anxiety that will cause sufferers to avoid their phobias at all costs, regardless of the inconvenience. Luckily, getting rid of phobias is usually possible with the right treatments, and these treatments are very similar no matter what the fear.
Will my phobia just go away?
Probably not. Phobias that develop during adulthood or adolescence usually require some kind of focused treatment. Children, however, often develop a handful of fears due to their immaturity. Most of the time these fears are overcome with age. But if your child exhibits strong fears for over half a year, it’s time to address the problem.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Phobias
Getting rid of phobias requires confronting them. You want to get exposure to your phobia by degrees, not all at once. Deal with one birthday clown, never go to an entire circus at the beginning. If you suffer from the fear of flying, first practice imagining the endeavor from takeoff to landing. Next, try looking at pictures or videos of flight. After that, go hang out at the airport – perhaps even board a plane. The goal here is to retrain your brain’s response to flight, to recondition your fear response.
Get rid of phobias with formal exposure therapy. If the baby steps mentioned above seem difficult, get help from a professional. With “exposure therapy”, you’d be doing the same activities mentioned in the above paragraph, only you’d have the support and guidance of a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. They will provide materials, homework (e.g. going to increasingly crowded spaces to overcome fear of crowds), coping strategies, and more.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to get rid of phobias. This is a more in-depth, comprehensive therapy that aims to alter your perception and thinking about your phobia. With the help of a therapist, you’ll again learn coping strategies and work on gradually exposing yourself to the phobia; however, the main point of cognitive behavioral therapy is to gain control of our thoughts and emotions.
Medications are sometimes prescribed for phobia symptoms. Beta blockers – which mitigate the effect of adrenaline – are sometimes used to lessen performance anxiety or “stage fright”-like symptoms. Sedatives like Valium are used to relieve anxiety, and some doctors treat patients with mood-enhancing antidepressants. In prescribing these medications, doctors are not throwing pills at the problem. These medications are prescribed so people can function well enough to handle day-to-day responsibilities – so they can stay afloat while working toward overcoming fears.
If you haven’t already, see your doctor. It’s best not to assume anything. After all, you need to have the right diagnosis to pursue the right treatments. Though a relatively common mental disorder, phobias can be mistaken for other anxiety disorders or underlying psychological problems. To find out what you’re dealing with, a doctor will conduct a thorough interview to see if your symptoms and behavior meet the specific guidelines for a phobia diagnosis.
Alternative Treatments for Phobias
Biofeedback. This therapy involves getting hooked up to a variety of monitoring devices that measure heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow to extremities, skin temperature, and more. Using these devices, a biofeedback specialist will teach you to control these physiological functions at will. The mere feeling of control helps, but this ability will help you to stay calm and function in the presence of your phobia. There are also elements of exposure therapy in biofeedback. Some specialists use virtual reality to – in a very visceral way – expose you to your phobia and help you recondition your mental and physical response.
Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is often just one aspect of formal psychotherapy. In the hypnotic state, you’ll be more open to suggestion and examining your phobias. Hypnosis has been known to help people alter their perceptions, emotions, and even sensations, making it an obvious treatment for phobias.
Get Rid of Phobias Naturally
Breathing techniques. Here is something that seems too simple to work, yet does. First, breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold it for three seconds. Then, slowly breathe out through your mouth for another four seconds. The counting helps reign in your thoughts while the slow, focused breathing lowers heart rate. Do this until you get your bearings and try to return to normalcy.
Valerian Root. If your phobia keeps you up at night, you may want to try this natural sedative. Valerian root has long been used as a natural sleep aid and to combat anxiety. Getting good, quality sleep is essential when working to overcome any mental disorder, as sleep loss can increase anxiety and worsen moods. Speak to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen. Amazon sells Nature’s Way Valerian Root capsules if you wanted to try them.
SAM-e. Short for S-Adenosyl methionine, this supplement – which occurs naturally in the human body – is thought to relieve anxiety by raising dopamine and serotonin levels. A prescription medication in Europe, SAM-e is easy to find at any whole foods establishment or drugstore in the U.S., and even order it from Amazon. Of course, no supplement is going to magically get rid of phobias. Rather, they can be used to lessen symptoms until fears are mastered.