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Treatment Of Phobias

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Mental health is a niche I like to delve in especially in topics I can really relate to. It sort of helps to tell my side of things

Phobias which are different from fears is something we either find in ourselves or people around us.

75% of the people that even have phobias have multiple phobias. I for one have a phobia for snakes as well as the dark.

In some cases phobias become so intense that they adversely affect one’s life to a great extent. This is common for people who have phobias accompanied by mental health conditions.

People like these will go to great lengths just to avoid encountering their phobia, even doing things that exceed the danger of the phobia presented leading to a great distress. People with phobias are even seen to be among those with a high risk of suicide

While some are treated with medications, others go through therapy to treat phobias. Phobias have an onset during ages 10-17 and the phobic population decrease with time.

This goes to show that some phobias resolve themselves as we grow and realize that these phobias were harmless all along.


Causes of Phobia Acquisition

The major factor that causes phobia is environmental enabling factors. This has been classified into three major parts by Rachman S.J.

- Classical conditioning

- Vicarious acquisition

- Informational/ instructional acquisition

Classical conditioning is a form of learning where conditioned stimulus becomes associated with an unrelated unconditioned stimulus in order to produce a conditioned response.

In other words, it is when one aversive trigger is complimented or paired with a neutral one making the subject responds in form of fear or whatever emotion is associated with the situation.

An example is when a person is bit by a snake in the woods; the person won’t just be scared of the snake but anything else that reminds them of the woods.

Vicarious acquisition is a form of observational learning of phobias and is observed not just in humans but in other primates as well.

It is the acquisition of a phobia after watching others, most especially someone who is close to the person react fearfully to an object or situation

An example is getting a fear for dogs after seeing a friend run from them. In some cases, this phobia increases after physically experiencing it first hand

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Informational/ instructional fear acquisition is getting a fear after reading or getting information about an object or situation that presents it as duly unfavorable.

An example is being scared of fire after reading on all the harm fire can do to a person or building


While reflex actions to danger situations may be mistaken for phobic reactions they are not.

Impairment and avoidance determine if a person has a fear for something; impairment in the sense that this fear stops you from doing things effectively due to a sense of impending doom you feel and avoidance is behavior that tends to eliminate aversive event that could happen when source of phobia is present


Diagnosis of a phobia can only be made when source of phobia is present. A person with a fear of rain cannot be detected in the summer time.

The proximity to as well as ability to escape from the phobia is also taken into consideration.

A common example is a person has a phobia for snakes, when there is a snake in the room and it is approaching the victim, yet the victim goes blank, freezes at the spot and goes into a mini panic attack can put that phobia at a high risk point


Phobia Treatment

  • Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that involves teaching a person to reconcile his feelings of fear till the person realizes on their own that their phobia is actually irrational.

It helps a person to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with an objective view rather than a positive one.

Initially used to treat depression, it is now also used for anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorders as well as phobias

  • Systematic Desensitization

This is a therapy approach that combines relaxation and gradual exposure to phobia in order to overcome it.

It is gradually working your way up by exposing one’s self to the least fear up to the most applying relaxation techniques along the way replacing anxiety with a sense of calm. Relaxation skills include

- Diaphragmatic breathing which involves taking deep breaths and then exhaling

- Visualization whereby one pictures a situation where one is at peace or isn’t in panic even in the presence of phobia trigger

- Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that helps one to identify tense muscle as a result of anxiety and then gradually release them enough to act or move quickly in order to deft that fear. This also can apply to when the heart starts to beat really fast as well

- Meditation is being more aware of the environment around you as well as the feeling experience. Making one more concerned on the elements rather than anxious thoughts

  • Medication

This is given to patients to regulate apprehension and fear experienced due to phobia.

These drugs such as antidepressants and sedatives affect moods and help people relax more so they spend more time resting than worrying.

Some others like the Beta blocker affect influence of adrenaline on individual which considerably reduces fear in people for phobic sources.

  • Hypnotherapy

This technique utilizes hypnosis to aid in treatment of different specific conditions.

It is done by inducing a hypnotic or trance like state to help them focus on a particular problem, visualization or even be more open to suggestions.

This experience tends to help people detach more from their fears and embrace a more relaxed countenance afterwards.

It is used on people with conditions like dementia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), chronic pain conditions


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