Ask Away...: How To Fight A Phobia

Monday, July 31, 2017

How To Fight A Phobia

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Phobias are extreme or irrational fears that can get in the way of our day to day lives. Whether it be bugs, heights, enclosed spaces, needles, germs or something as bizarre as baked beans, almost all of us suffer from some kind of phobia. They can be mild for some and debilitating for others, but as deeply ingrained as they may be, they’re almost always curable.


To get over a phobia, you first need to want to get over it. Without this desire to overcome it, you’ll always be keeping your distance. Here are just a few of the steps that you should take to fight your phobia.


Understand the root cause of your phobia


Phobias are often developed from some kind of trauma in childhood, although they can be inherited. A fear of spiders may be developed from watching a parent’s reaction as a child. You may not always be able to pinpoint the exact moment a phobia developed, but if you can it can greatly help in trying to rationalise your phobia.


In some cases, serious trauma can be a trigger (almost drowning in a pool might cause someone to become scared of water). The likes of myptsd.com can be useful for helping to overcome such trauma, which may require more serious recovery fist.


Realise the difference between a phobia and a common fear. A lot of us would think twice before going skydiving, but not being able to look out the window of a building’s 4th floor could be a clear sign of a phobia.  

Rationalise your phobia


The next stage should be to rationalise your phobia. When exposed to the object of our phobia, many of us will enter a survival mode that tells us to run, the type of reaction we should only have in a life/death scenario. In most cases, there’s no likely risk of death at all. A wasp may sting you, a dog may bite you and an elevator may break down, and even this most likely only comes with a very miniscule chance. Compare your fear to more obvious dangers and you’ll help to scale it down and start to realise just how irrational it is.


Develop a coping mechanism


There are all manner of coping strategies that can be used to face a phobia. This could involve a breathing exercise or meditation that helps calm the anxiety. It could be a healthy distraction tactic such as playing music on headphones or humming a tune to oneself or visualising something else. Psychologytoday.com details just some of the coping strategies that can be used for overcoming a fear of public speaking. Whilst not all of these may apply to your phobia, you may find that some could be adopted (meditating for five minutes before crossing a high bridge).


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Rank your fears


Jumping straight in the deep end can work for a mild fear, but not for an ingrained phobia. Often taking baby steps and working your way up is the best route. This requires you to rank your fears from the mildest trigger to the most extreme scenario you could think of. In the case of arachnophobia, you could rank your fears from a small garden spider to a full blown tarantula. In the case of claustrophobia, you could rank your fears from being trapped in a small room to potholing. From here, you can then start to work your way up the list.


Start by visualising the first item


You should first get comfortable visualising the object. This may include drawing the object of your phobia or seeing a photograph of it. In the case of animal phobia such as snakes, it may be worth getting used to touching the photograph. For heights or confined spaces, it may involve watching a video of someone going through your dreaded situation in first person. VR has made it possible to step things up a gear and really experience these situations as if they’re really there. VRphobia.com is just one of the companies that has been doing medical research into this kind of phobia recovery.


Seek out the first item in reality


Your next step should be to face the first item on your list in reality. This could involve stroking a dog or taking a short elevator trip. There may be ways of even easing yourself into this situation first such as getting near the dog with someone holding it on a leash, or stepping in an elevator and stepping our whilst somebody holds the doors. Get comfortable with this first step by constantly exposing yourself to this first item on the list.


Reward yourself


Every time you make an advancement, reward yourself. This will motivate you to keep on going. In fact, you can even set each goal with a reward. This could mean going for a meal out for overcoming the first item and treating yourself to a holiday if you manage to overcome the last item. In some cases, the reward may even be part of completing the final stage (if you’re afraid of going on a plane, you could book yourself a holiday that requires you to get on that plane).


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Work up through your list


Keep going up through the list at a steady rate. Some people may find that by completing the first item on their list that they get more spurred on to try the challenging stuff and so may go up through the list at a quicker rate. The most important thing is to keep challenging yourself, even when you’ve overcome that greatest fear. Don’t stop handling spiders once you’ve held that tarantula and don’t stop taking lifts once you’ve got inside an MRI scan machine. The aim isn’t to simply reach the final challenge on your list, but to become comfortable with it, which means constantly trying to break down those boundaries until they no longer exist.

















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