How to Overcome A Phobia

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Ever since I was little I have always been scared of various things. Although I had many fears, none of them seemed to legitimately tamper with my well-being. Unfortunately, that changed once I got to around ten years old. Sometime around this time, I began to gain an irrational fear of fish. I am not quite sure how this came to be, but this fear became extremely prevalent in my life. From not going to certain restaurants because they served a lot of fish there, to not wanting to go to the beach, to not even going downstairs for dinner if my family was eating fish that night, everyday occurrences were becoming problems for me. This fear still even tampers with my life today. For example, I try my best to avoid the right side of the HUB where the fish tank is. Since this fear has significantly influenced my decisions over the past six or seven years, I decided to write my blog on how exactly to overcome a phobia.

Overall, a phobia is a fear that presents no actual danger, and causes a considerable amount of anxiety. The anxiety can range from mild anxiety, to even panic attacks. Physical symptoms can even include difficulty breathing, a racing heart, and shaking (Smith, Segal, Segal, 2016). Although symptoms of rational fears and irrational fears (phobias), can sometimes be the same, there are a few major differences. For example, with phobias, you realize that the fear is senseless, but you’re still scared anyways. This is unlike a rational fear, where once you realize the fear is absurd, you’re not scared anymore (Smith, Segal, Segal, 2016). Going back to my fear of fish, I am completely aware that a fish in a fish tank will cause no harm towards me, but I am nevertheless scared, so it qualifies as a a phobia. Another difference is that one will go to great lengths to avoid something if they have an irrational fear, unlike if they have a rational fear (Smith, Segal, Segal, 2016). For example, say someone has a rational fear of spiders, they may scream or jump if they see one. Now, if that person had phobia of spiders, he or she may avoid playing outside altogether merely to avoid seeing a spider. Overall, the major difference between a rational fear or a phobia of something is if the fear notably impedes on your daily decisions (Pomfrey).

Apparently, phobias are one of the most common mental disorders, effecting 11% of the population. With this being said, people should realize there is no shame in seeking help to overcome your phobia. It is even said that for adults, if a phobia has been existent for over a year, it will most likely not go away without professional help (NHS 2014). Fortunately, there are various ways to overcome phobias. Among the many ways, the most effective is being exposed to whatever is causing the phobia (Smith, Segal, Segal, 2016). There are two different therapies used to expose patients, systematic desensitization, and exposure-based therapy. Systematic desensitization, a class of cognitive-behavioral therapy, is when patients are put in a relaxed state, and then exposed to the object in a way that will only cause a small amount of fear/anxiety. When the anxiety begins to increase, the patient will go back his/her relaxed state, then back to being exposed in a different way, and so on and so forth, until he/she is desensitized (Pomfrey). In other words, if I tried doing this with my fish phobia, I would first learn a relaxation method until I was in a relaxed state. I would then be exposed to a picture of a fish. Then once my anxiety got too .high, the picture would be taken away and I would go back to my relaxed state. Next, I would look at a fish from a distance, then go back to my relaxed state. This would keep going on until I would ultimately be desensitized from fish. This process works due to the patient replacing anxiety with relaxation (Pomfrey). On the other hand, exposure-based therapy is the same as systematic desensitization, just without the relaxation part. Besides therapy, antidepressants are also helpful. The most common antidepressants used are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac or Zoloft, but Valium and Xanax are also common (NHS 2014).

Overall, phobias can consume a part of a person’s life and everyday decisions. From simple avoidances to anxiety attacks, the consequences of having a phobia can run high. Fortunately, no phobia can’t go away with professional help.

7 thoughts on “How to Overcome A Phobia

  1. Marissa Dorros

    This post stood out to me because just a few days ago I was talking to my sister, a nursing major who is currently learning about phobias in her psychology course, about whether my fear of spiders is irrational or not. On the other hand, my mom is a clinical social worker who specializes in helping people overcome their phobias. Every so often she shows me the techniques she tries on her patients, and one that stood out to me is a tapping technique called the emotional freedom technique. Basically, the patient is instructed to tap with their fingers at specific points on their body to stimulate their meridian system, which can in turn solve emotional issues such as a phobia.

  2. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    I was intrigued to read this because I have a fear of fire. I’ve had it for a while, and it is getting pretty annoying at this point. Lighters, bonfires, candles, fireworks, even to the point that gas stations and lightening storms scare me because they can be traced to fire hazards. This is called pyrophobia. Every since coming to college I have been trying to overcome my fear of fire. One of my first steps has been trying to learn to light a lighter on my own. Pretty weird, but im 19 years old and have never lit one before and have had to have always had to have people light candles, etc. for me. I think it would have been beneficial in your blog to include a study of maybe the most common phobias. Or perhaps a study that tracked the people throughout the process of systematic desensitization to truly see how helpful it is.

  3. Mairead Donnard

    Great blog! The part I found to be most informative was when you differentiated between rational fears and phobias. That part of your blog clarified to me that I definitely have a phobia of spiders. For example, if I know that there is a spider in my room, I will not sleep in there unless I know that it is gone. It is unfortunate that phobias have seemingly overtaken the lives of some people but it is good to know that there are remedies out there. With this being said, I have always wondered why people develop phobias. One could speculate that phobias surface due to negative experiences, but I have never had a bad experience with spiders that I can remember that sparked this phobia. With this being said, here is an article that you might find interesting (I know I did) about the origins of phobias:

  4. Kayla Neiland

    I too have an irrational fear, the fear of gum. I cannot chew gum, touch gum wrappers, and the sound of people chewing it freaks me out. Yea it is weird because its such a common thing for people to do but i just can’t help it. I did some research on t, its called chiclephobia, and Oprah has it too!! Your advice was helpful but I think I would rather just live with it than go on medication or see a doctor.
    This article suggests that meditation will help tame the fear. Maybe you could try it out and before you know it you will find yourself at an aquarium!

  5. Molly Mccarthy Tompson

    I had a phobia of spiders as a child, indisputably. It was more than a simple fear: I used to avoid using the restroom at day-camp as a child for the entire day, every single day, because there were occasionally a couple of harmless daddy-long-legs spiders hiding in the corners. I would avoid rooms and areas and sometimes wouldn’t participate in activities because of my fear. As I grew older, I sort of outgrew this phobia. I still HATE spiders, but I do not feel that they affect my daily life. This is kind of the opposite of what happened to you; you described how the phobia didn’t develop until you got a bit older. I didn’t know beforehand that phobias are actually mental disorders. It is reassuring that people can learn to overcome phobias.

  6. vek5025

    I am glad that you did a lot of research and studied effects of phobias on others for this blog. I wish that you had chosen a more specific phobia to cover. I think that it would have caught the reader’s eye better if the title was something like “How to overcome a fear of heights” which is something specific that we could relate to.

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