Your Phobia and Your Mental Health

Your Phobia and Your Mental Health

Your Phobia and Your Mental Health 2560 1707 Right Path Counseling

There are many different forms of anxiety. One that you’ll find we, as therapists, do not talk about very often is phobias – irrational fears that cause extreme distress, often infrequently or rarely.

Phobias are extremely common. At least 12% of people will experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives, and the actual number is likely a lot higher if it is expanded to include those that experience irrational fear, but perhaps not extreme distress.

So why don’t we talk about phobias?

And why should we treat them?

Why Phobias Are a Problem That Deserves Treatment

Phobias are specific, irrational fears, such as a fear of spiders, a fear of flying, or a fear of public speaking. To qualify as a phobia, the person must experience a significant, disruptive anxiety event when encountering these experiences. For example, a person with a phobia of snakes might scream, faint, or cry with extreme anxiety should they encounter a snake. Or they may start to experience anxiety simply thinking about snakes.

Phobias are unique in the anxiety world, in that they are typically not something that we encounter every day, and yet when we do encounter them, the experience can be so distressing that we wonder how we have been able to live with it at all. If you have a fear of snakes, for example, you likely rarely encounter a snake, which means that most of the time your fear of snakes is irrelevant to your life.

That is likely why so many people do not view treating phobias with the same urgency as they would have treating other forms of anxiety. It’s easy to understand why someone might put off treating a phobia when the phobia only affects their lives at random, rare times.

The issue is that we often find phobias actually impact your life much more:

  • Many people alter their behaviors in order to avoid encountering their phobia. Those with a fear of planes avoid travel. Those with a fear of snakes or spiders may not go outside as often, or may not go to the zoo, or may have nightmares. Those that fear heights may limit some of their experiences to avoid heights. Phobias typically affect our lives even in ways that we do not often think about.
  • When encountering the subject of a phobia, the fear can be so pronounced and so severe that it can be traumatic. A person with a fear of rats (musophobia) might experience so much fear when they encounter a rat that it can cause symptoms of PTSD, or become a painful memory that affects them for months or years to come.
  • The way the human brain works is that the more we avoid something or reinforce its fear, the worse the fear becomes. So, your current level of fear may only be the beginning, because how you respond to your phobia could make the fear increase further in the future.

Although it may feel at times as though the phobia is under control, or that it isn’t impacting your life at the moment, the truth is that it may be impacting your life in ways you do not notice, and there is a risk that it could get worse in the future if left untreated. Phobias are worth treating, as you deserve to live without worrying about this type of severe fear reaction.

How Successful is Phobia Treatment?

Phobias can be treated. However, they do require some commitment on the part of the patient. There are often exercises and activities that a person can engage in with the therapist to help address and get rid of the phobia, along with therapies like CBT that can help keep the anxiety under control.

But it is worth it. Even if you find your fear isn’t impacting your life too often now, you’ll prevent increased anxiety as a result of the phobia in the future if you treat it sooner than later. For more information about treating phobias, please contact us today.

Right Path

Right Path Counseling is a team of counselors and therapists on Long Island, each with their unique perspectives and approaches to provide more personal, customized care. We see our role as more diverse than only the therapist and patient relationship, and see people as more than anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. We also offer services for children with ADHD and their parents that are unique to the Long Island area, including parent coaching and executive function disorder coaching. We encourage you to reach out at any time with questions and for support.

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