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What’s the Best Treatment for Phobias? A Doctor’s Perspective

Phobias can run the gamut from fear of cats to fear or closed spaces. If you suffer from a debilitating phobia, help is available and is usually quite effective in extinguishing the fear. Here are two of the best treatments for phobia.

We all have fears of one type or another. But sometimes these fears can take on a more serious tone when they become so extreme that they interfere with everyday life. At this point, these irrational fears become known as phobias. Phobias can run the gamut from common fears such as a fear of heights to more esoteric ones such as fear of one’s reflection in a mirror. Fears of phobic proportions are actually quite common with more than ten percent of American adults reporting an irrational fear of some object or circumstance. Many people are able to live with their phobias and don’t require any form of treatment. The exceptions would be people with phobias that interfere with daily living or the ability to earn a living. When a traveling salesperson develops a fear of flying or a bus driver becomes fearful of driving, intervention may be a necessity. If treatment becomes necessary what is the best therapy for phobia?

  1. Systematic Desensitization

    Most phobias are treated using behavior therapy of which systematic desensitization is an example. With this form of therapy, you’ll be instructed to develop a fear hierarchy from the least fearful situation to the most terrifying. You’re then taught relaxation techniques to adequately deal with the resulting fear. Once you’ve mastered the ability to relax, you’ll be asked to imagine each step in your fear hierarchy while in a relaxed state. For example, if you fear flying, you would first learn to relax while imagining yourself standing in an airport and then gradually work up to relaxing while envisioning yourself boarding a plane. By exposing yourself to progressively more fearful situations while in a relaxed state, you gradually desensitize yourself and extinguish the fear associated with the event. This form of phobia treatment can be quite effective for some people.

  2. Flooding

    This is another form of behavioral therapy that can be effective for overcoming phobias. With flood therapy, you’re quickly placed into the feared situation and asked to remain there until the anxiety subsides. By remaining in the situation despite initial anxiety, you come to see that the feared object or circumstance won’t hurt you and the fear extinguishes. This form of phobia treatment works quickly but may be too intimidating for some phobic individuals. It seems to work well with social phobias where the individual fears being in the company of other people at social situations. It can also help with certain object oriented phobias such as a fear of snakes.

Although, therapists are available to administer behavioral therapy to you, you may be able to perform behavioral therapy on yourself using systematic desensitization. It’s a relatively simple matter to construct a series of events you fear in your mind and learn to relax while envisioning the situation. If you’re unable to resolve your phobia on your own, some therapists can actually counsel you in behavioral techniques over the phone.

There’s no need to suffer from a debilitating phobia when there are effective treatment options available. The best treatment for phobia will vary with the individual, but these two forms of therapy have an excellent track record.

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