Techniques for Treating Phobias

Phobias are irrational disorders and cause a person to be overly frightened of a thing or situation. Many times the person with the phobia realizes how ridiculous their fear is, but because it is an irrational disorder, they are powerless to resist the effects. Because phobias are not a disease in the traditional sense, they cannot be cured with a shot or pill like a normal disease.

In recent years, techniques for treating phobias have been developed that allow physicians to free people from the grip of their fears. However, by their very nature, although the reaction to phobic triggers can be treated, it is ultimately down to the sufferer to deal with the root cause of the phobia if they are ever going to achieve long-term relief.

As a treatment for phobias, therapists attempt to break the link between the source of the phobia and the anxiety it causes. Therapy can be made easier if the underlying cause of the fear is known. This could be due to a bad childhood experience or something that the patient has come to believe and fear. Ultimately, most phobias can be controlled, by dealing with the root cause of the problem in a controlled setting.

Flooding Therapy for Phobias

Many therapists use a technique called flooding to help patients face their phobia. Flooding is a form of exposure therapy where a patient confronts their fear until it melts away. Flooding is effective because the mind forms strong instinctive links between cause and effect. After experiencing the cause of the phobia in a controlled setting with no negative effects, the link between the cause of the phobia and the emotional response is weakened. However, flooding may need to be done over several sessions to truly take effect. In some cases, phobias are too strong to actually face and must be imagined instead.

Counter Conditioning Therapy

Counter conditioning is another way therapists help patients control their phobic reactions and is based on replacing fearful reactions with relaxation techniques. This requires self-awareness and control to be successful, but therapists have found the method effective if taught under controlled conditions. Relaxation can be achieved through breathing exercises and maintaining mental focus and perspective. Therapists who use counter conditioning also use desensitization to help patients rid themselves of their phobias. Both parties determine a hierarchy of things or situations that cause the phobic reaction, and confront the least frightening stimuli first and work towards confronting the most frightening thing or situation.

In some people, particularly those who experience social phobia, anti-anxiety medication can help reduce phobic symptoms and therefore keep their phobia under control. This is most useful in patients who suffer from panic attacks because of their phobia.

Phobias can be overwhelming and require a psychologist to conquer the phobia, although some can overcome a phobia without much outside help. Confronting whatever triggers the phobic reaction can end some phobias, but this can prove to be far too uncomfortable for some people.

Page Updated: November 11, 2016
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