Getting Past Phobias
Fear is part of normal human reactions whereas a phobia is an intense and irrational fear, usually of something specific. It commonly develops through stressful or frightening experience(s). People may also develop phobias through living or constantly interacting with someone who has a phobia. For example, a child may develop a specific phobia after a prolonged experience of observing adults with a fear of spiders, cockroaches or germs.
There are many types of phobias and the more well-known ones are:
Acrophobia: The fear of heights
Agoraphobia: Fear of being trapped in an enclosed situation or place
Claustrophobia: The fear of small spaces
Aerophobia: The fear of flying
Glossophobia: Fear of public speaking. Glossophobia is more commonly known as social phobia or social anxiety and caused by a childhood experience of being ridiculed, criticised or shamed by adults or classmates.
A person with a phobia may experience the following symptoms:
Avoiding source of fear at all possible costs
Uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear
Inability to control feelings despite acknowledging that the fear is irrational and exaggerated
Physical sensations when exposed to the fear, such as sweating, shaking, dizziness, chest paints or accelerated heartbeat
Most people with phobias generally feel they can still continue their day-to-day lives by avoiding certain environments and the source of the fear. Therefore, many people with phobias do not seek treatment as they find it manageable to avoid them. However, while many phobias (e.g., the fear of lizards) are manageable, some phobias can hinder people from reaching their potential. For example, the phobia of public speaking or the phobia of flying can cause some people to turn away from lucrative job promotions requiring them to speak in public or travel by plane.
Research has found that avoiding phobias can worsen feelings of anxiety. Although the fear can be intense, phobias are highly treatable, and it is essential to speak to a mental health professional to learn how to overcome them. Psychotherapy is the primary treatment for phobia, though some people may need medication to ease some anxiety symptoms. The goal of therapy is to reduce the fear people with phobias experience and learn how to manage their emotions, thoughts or behaviours associated with it.
Effective treatment for phobias includes Exposure Therapy. The counsellor works with the client to identify the fear hierarchy list and then helps the client gradually be exposed to the phobia to decrease anxiety and become desensitised to the trigger.
Another effective treatment for phobia is Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The therapist helps the client overcome the phobia through a process that desensitises related thoughts, emotions and physiological responses. In EMDR therapy, the clients do not need to be expose to the actual stimuli. Clients who received EMDR treatment reported increased appropriate response when faced with the source of the fear, such as relaxed facial expressions and natural body movements. EMDR therapy is also helpful to help the client work on other unprocessed trauma related to the phobia.
Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy provides EMDR therapy and other counselling and psychotherapy services for people with phobias. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or Whatsapp us at +65 8889 1848.
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