Treating Fears and Phobias

Written By: Jerald - Dec• 06•10

Types of Fears/Phobias:

1. Fears-normal protective response to possible harm or injury

2. Phobia-

• A persistent and unreasonable fear of a specific object, activity, or situation

• Results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity, or situation


3. What really distinguishes Fear from Phobia?

• Persistently afraid over a long time

• You know the fear is unreasonable, but that doen’t dispel the fear

• You avoid the feared situation


4. How do phobias develop?

• 2 types of conditioned learning:

• Association between a formerly neutral situation and anxiety in that situation——-à anxiety response to the situation.  Learned an association between the situation and anxiety

• Second:  avoidance learning.   When you can eliminate the distressing anxiety by avoiding the anxiety provoking situation, the avoidance behavior gets strengthened

• Trauma:  can develop an aversion for a specific object, activity, or situation when traumatized, e.g. stung by a bee=fear of bees; auto accident=fear of driving; perceived trauma=announcement of plane crash and fear of flying

• Inborn fears:  may be hard-wired or programmed into our nervous systems to fear the dark, animals, and/or insects for our survival. These are normal as children; if we don’t outgrow them as adults can become phobias.


5. What Maintains Phobias:  Maintaining Causes

• Maintaining causes are what keeps them going once begun.

• Include the ways we think, feel, and cope that perpetuate anxiety, panic, or phobias

• Are things we do in the hear and now that promote our problem


6. Examples of Maintaining Causes:

• Avoidance of Phobic Situations(perpetuates anticipatory anxiety; phobic anxiety)


• Anxious Self-Talk (“what if” worries that anticipate trouble increase anxiety and associated body symptoms)



• Mistaken Beliefs-core negative assumptions about yourself and the world-the lenses through which you view and translate the world make life more difficult.  E.g.-no one is really trust worthy; I’m bad and therefore deserve nothing good;  life is always a struggle; outside world is always dangerous.


• Withheld Feelings-suppressing or denying anger, sadness, frustration, even excitement can lead to free-floating anxiety.   Can evolve into a deep-seated fear of “feeling long-repressed” denied feelings.   Some phobias actually represent more of the “fear of feeling” than actual fear of a particular object or situation


• Lack of Assertiveness-skill that enables you to clearly and forthrightly express your opinions and feelings.  Without it, it adds to your emotional encumbrance


• Lack of Self-Nurturing Skills-when you haven’t learned to soothe yourself and cope in the adult world , have a difficult time calming self and coping with adult demands


• Muscle Tension-effects exacerbate anxiety



• Stimulants and other Dietary Factors-caffeine, nicotine , sugar, food additives



• High-Stress Lifestyle-living w/excessive demands and stressors increases the “background anxiety” and leads to increased fears and possibly phobias



• Lack of meaning in life or Sense of Purpose-when what’s on your screen is you and pleasure-seeking, leads to boredome, aimlessness, lack of fully developed sense of self


7. What helps Relieve Fears and Phobias


·        General Healthful Practices:  a.  decrease caffeine/nicotine usage  b.  8 cups/h20; c.  complex carbs ; d.  exercise moderately/regularly e.  vitamins w/b complex and c and Calcium are beneficial  f.  good sleep hygiene


·        Learning a relaxation/self-soothing response to decrease overall anxiety levels, develop self-mastery, and prepare for desensitization through exposure


8. Facing the fear through imaginary and live desensitization

• Sensitization=  associating object,situation,activity w/anxiety resulting in fear and maybe later developing phobia

• Desensitization= breaking the connection between the phobic situation and anxiety

• Imaginal Desensitization and Live Desentiziation:

• 0construct ascending hierarchy f/mildly anxiety-provoking to very anxiety-provoking scenes

b. visualization in mind

c. later live experiencing


9. Flying Example (hierarchy)-imaginal first, then real

·        Approach airport w/support person for 5 minutes

·        Park @ terminal w/support person for 5 minutes

·        Do above by self

·        Enter terminal, walk 5 minutes w/support person

·        Go to departure gate w/support person, watch planes takeoff and land

·        Arrange visit in plane on ground w/support person; buckle up;  leave after 5 minutes

·        Do this w/support person

·        Eventually taking a flight


6 core Fears

·        Fear of Losing Control

·        Fear of death, injury, pain

·        Fear of rejection,shame, redicule

·        Fear of Confinement

·        Fear of Abandonment,isolation, or loneliness

·        Fear of unknown or something strange

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