Phobias are specific fears that interfere with one’s lifestyle. The fear is cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific feared object or situation. Examples of specific phobia include:
- Situational: (fear of flying, public speaking, performance anxiety, and enclosed spaces)
- Environmental: (heights, water, storms)
- Receiving an injection, seeing blood, fear of the dentist
- Animals: (spiders, cats, dogs)
- Health: (fear of becoming sick, vomiting)
Exposure to the feared object or situation provokes increased anxiety, which may intensify to panic attacks. It almost always involves some level of worry when anticipating the feared event.Phobias are commonly experienced, with 60% of adults reporting some fears and 11.25% of the adult population qualifying for a diagnosis of specific phobia during their lifetime (Eaton et al., 1991).
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Exposure therapy are effective and clinically proven treatments for phobias. Therapy involves facing your fear rather than avoiding it. Although avoidance temporarily takes the fear away, it only serves to maintain the fear and increase it.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a short-term treatment, which aims to change the way you think about the phobia and behave. Therapy involves psychoeducation about anxiety, challenging unhelpful thoughts related to the phobia, followed by behavioural interventions including preparing to face the fear and slowly facing that fear until anxiety is reduced.
Exposure therapy has less emphasis on thoughts and focuses on changing the behaviour through systematic desensitization. Rather than facing your biggest fear right away, which can be traumatizing, exposure therapy starts with constructing a hierarchy of least fear to highest fear and step-by-step working your way through the hierarchy with your therapist until your anxiety and fear has reduced significantly.
CBT and Exposure therapy for phobias have successful outcomes and lead to significant symptom reduction in as little as 10-20 sessions.
A large part of my work is the treatment of phobias. I have successfully treated clients with fear of flying, fear of public speaking and preparing for wedding speeches, fear of spiders, fear of dentists, fear of lifts, fear of water and fear of vomiting.
If you feel your phobia is affecting your life, or if you would like to find out further information about this topic, contact the practice for a confidential appointment.
© The Consulting Cliic, 2015.