Specific Phobias: Symptoms and Treatment
It is not uncommon to have a fear of things like heights or spiders. However, some people experience these fears to such a degree that it impacts the quality of their life. People with Specific Phobias limit their activities in fear of being exposed to their feared object or event so much that they are unable to fulfill their regular daily activities and responsibilities.
Common Specific Phobias
- Vomit (Emetaphobia)
- Animals such as dogs, cats, monkeys etc
- Germs or contaminants
- Insects such as spiders, fleas etc (Entomophobia)
- Elevators or confined spaces (Claustrophobia)
- Heights (acrophobia)
- Driving (sometimes specifically highways, freeways or off/on-ramps)
- Public Transportation (airplanes, trains, buses etc)
- Medical Procedures (needles, blood, Doctors, Dentists, medication etc)
Avoidance of the feared object or situation is the most common symptom of specific phobias. This can often lead to avoidance of even talking about the fear or having thoughts of the specific fear. This can be quite problematic; as it is very hard to avoid thoughts, as thoughts are something we have little control over. Other symptoms include asking family members and friends for reassurance, with sufferers spending countless hours online trying to find proof that their fear is not currently occurring or will not happen in the future. Often, the Internet is used as a source of reassurance. Repetitive checking compulsions are also common. Checking compulsions consists of overtly checking to see if there is a possibility of being harmed by their feared object. A phobia of insects or contaminants, for example, may involve spending many hours of the day checking to be certain that the insect is not present. A phobia of vomit, which his very common among children and teens, for example, may involve checking each classmate for signs of illness.
Phobia Treatment and Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the leading treatment modality for treating Specific Phobias. Treatment involves learning how to identify distorted thoughts and restructuring them into more reasonable and rational thoughts, a process commonly called Cognitive Therapy. Treatment also heavily emphasizes Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which is a component of Behavioral Therapy used to help a client to desensitize to their specific phobia. Using a hierarchy (created by the client), the client will slowly expose themselves to their fear and slowly return back to daily activities while tolerating their discomfort. They will also learn mindfulness tools to manage anxiety and other emotions that they experience, instead of doing compulsive behaviors (Read more about Mindfulness here LINK).
If you have some or all of these symptoms and you feel like the above information describes you, see a qualified mental health professional for an assessment. Click here to contact Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT