Phobias: Will I Always Be Scared?

January 24, 2023

Phobias: Will I Always Be Scared?

By Gina Cipriano

Anxiety in association with unpleasant situations is not necessarily “bad” or “wrong” to feel. Rather, it is as an adaptive feature that ensures the continued existence of humans. Millions of years ago, the person who feared that rustling behind trees was an animal waiting to attack and avoided that area, had a higher chance of survival. However, in present day situations, intense fears about objects or situations, which do not generally pose a threat to safety, can contribute to avoidance and lead to considerable distress in life. Intense fears that cause a person’s well-being to be compromised are known as phobias. For instance, a person who fears the sight of blood may not attend their annual medical visits. Phobias can include a range of different objects and situations including the following: injections, flying, sight of blood, heights, small spaces, and spiders. Phobias may develop after a traumatic situation occurred concerning the situation or object. In some cases, a person people may even be able to pinpoint when their phobia began and the reasons behind how it started. However, phobias can also be learned during childhood. For instance, if a child has a guardian that demonstrates intense fear about a situation or object, the child may learn that situation or object is something that needs to be endured with anxiety or avoided at all costs.

Phobias Are Treatable:

Due to the fact that phobias are rooted in avoidance of a distressing situation, exposure therapy is a highly regarded treatment for phobias. Exposure therapy requires that, eventually, a person confronts their phobia. Exposure therapy may entail having a person make a list from the most to least distressing situation concerning the phobia (Eaton et al., 2018). For a person who has a phobia of flying in an airplane, the least distressing situation may be seeing a picture of an airplane. Driving to the airport and sitting in an airport may be moderately distressing, while actually flying in a plane may be the most distressing. During exposure therapy, the therapist and client will work together to employ stress reduction techniques for lesser distressing situations. When the client can endure the situation with minimal distress, they will move on to the next most distressing situation while employing these techniques until they can confront the most distressing situation.

Another intervention for the treatment of phobias includes eye-movement and desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) (DeJongh & Broeke, 2007). EMDR requires that a person recalls a traumatic situation that caused or further contributed to a phobia. While the person is recalling this situation, the clinician will employ bilateral stimulation (DeJongh & Broeke, 2007). Bilateral stimulation can include hearing alternating beeps in each ear, tapping alternating legs, or moving eyes back and forth (DeJongh & Broeke, 2007). Bilateral stimulation will be employed until a person’s level of distress reaches zero while recalling the memory.

References

De Jongh, A., & Ten Broeke, E. (2007). Treatment of specific phobias with EMDR: Conceptualization and strategies for the selection of appropriate memories. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 1(1), 46-56. https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3196.1.1.46

Eaton, W. W., Bienvenu, O. J., & Miloyan, B. (2018). Specific phobias. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(8), 678-686.

Palm Beach behavioral treatment for phobias.