Online therapy for phobias and their treatment
While many individuals may have fears, specific phobias are an overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific situation, object, activity, or person. These excessive fears or phobias may cause individuals extreme distress. They may make every effort possible to avoid the feared object or situation which can impact daily life.
Studies show that roughly 12.5% of American adults experience simple phobias at some point. Some may involve a specific object or situation, while other types can be more complex, and some individuals may even have more than one phobia.
However, phobia therapy treatment options are available, such as online therapy, which can make a living with complex phobias more manageable.
Symptoms of phobias
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, there are specific criteria for a particular phobia diagnosis. These phobia symptoms include:
Irrational, excessive, exaggerated fears triggered by a specific object or situation
Immediate anxiety reactions (such as a rapid heartbeat) are unreasonable to the actual danger when presented with a specific situation or object.
Individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid the things or situations they fear or experience extreme distress.
It has a significant impact on multiple aspects of the individual's life.
It has lasted for longer than six months.
The extreme fear is not attributed to another disorder.
Types of specific phobias
There are five types of specific phobias that may affect individuals.
Natural/Environmental: These may include fears of nature, weather, or environmental events such as aquaphobia or fear of water.
Injury: These include fears of physical injury or harm, such as Trypanophobia or fear of needles.
Animal: This occurs when an individual has an intense fear of a specific animal or insect, such as arachnophobia.
Situational: This occurs when an individual experiences an extreme fear of specific situations, such as acrophobia (fear of heights), fear of closed spaces, fear of open spaces, or fear of public speaking.
Other Types: Extreme fears that don't fit the other categories, such as Coulrophobia or fear of clowns.
Many individuals may not need treatment for their specific phobias as they may have learned ways to avoid the particular object or situation they fear. However, treating phobias may be necessary for some individuals to overcome these mental blocks. Depending on the type you may be experiencing, many treatment options are available that may help. Psychology treatments can teach coping skills and adjust negative thoughts and behaviors, allowing someone to make the changes they desire in their mind and life. Other treatments, such as progressive muscle relaxation, can offer physical relief from the phobia in order to enable healthy coping habits. Consider speaking to your primary care doctor about your mental health questions and therapy options that are available.
CBT: A common treatment
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common treatments for phobias. This form of talk therapy involves identifying your fears and learning to disassociate what you are afraid of from negative consequences by changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help you develop the ability to use practical skills to overcome or manage patterns that may be contributing to your phobia or making your anxiety worse. Whether you're managing simple phobias or complex phobias or dealing with anxiety disorders, CBT therapists can help in managing anxiety related to phobias. CBT and other therapies have effectively treated phobias and other mental disorders across the globe, in addition to improving relationships and the links between thoughts and actions.
Another potential therapy method that can help people is exposure therapy. This method involves gradually exposing people to the object or situation they fear in a safe and controlled environment. The psychology of fear explains the importance of facing a specific fear in order to be mindful of the fear response. Through repeated exposure to the specific object you fear, you may begin to feel more control of your emotions during exposure to the actual threat. This is also known as systematic desensitization. One example of a modern technique is virtual reality exposure therapy, which uses this technique with the help of sophisticated modern technology. It's essential to go slow with exposure therapy and only agree to what you feel comfortable with, stopping when you feel anxious. There can be options for deep relaxation to balance out exposure therapy as well.
Online therapy may be an effective option for those experiencing specific phobias, especially if the avoidance of confronting complex phobias is impacting self-esteem, affecting their daily life, or causing depression. With online therapy, individuals can receive effective treatment for phobias in the comfort of their homes whenever convenient for them. Online therapy is just as effective as in-person sessions. A licensed mental health professional may be able to help with a diagnosis and decide which is the best treatment.
With online sessions from a service such as BetterHelp, your counselor will be available anywhere you have an internet connection via phone, video, or online chat, so you can talk to them when you need it. An online therapist can help you navigate a phobia situation that feels like a life-threatening situation.
As unusual as some phobias may seem, they are very real to the person experiencing them. Anxiety resulting from being presented with a specific situation or object, like open spaces, can cause panic attacks that could impact a person's ability to engage in everyday activities or situations.
Online therapy for phobias presents a convenient treatment option for helping people understand phobias and develop coping strategies for managing them. These treatments may help individuals develop mindfulness strategies, realize the importance of being physically active, and slowly desensitize the triggers of the phobia. Someone seeking online help can schedule face-to-face or phone sessions from the comfort of their own home.
Therapists can provide various treatment options for those experiencing difficulty breathing or other physical symptoms. Whether someone exhibits a social phobia or one resulting from nature, animals, or other people, online therapy may help people learn how to manage anxiety in social situations
If you believe you may be living with a phobia, it may be helpful to see a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. While some individuals can cope independently, many people can benefit from seeking help from therapy to overcome their extreme fears.
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can match you with a mental health professional that best suits your specific needs. You'll find a provider interested in helping you with your unique situation. You can also find tools and social guidance to help you overcome your phobia and begin to live your best life again. Reach out today to begin your journey to a better you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can phobias be cured?
Like most mental health disorders, there may be no immediate cure for specific phobias. However, treatment can help individuals living with them cope and learn how to live manageable lives. There are many therapies available that may help an individual overcome their phobia. Exposure therapy effectively provides treatments through gradual and repeated exposure to the feared object or situation.
Other treatment options include CBT and medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRI, monoamine oxidase, and beta blockers. Potential side effects include drowsiness, headache, or gastrointestinal problems.
Beta-blockers may reduce anxiety symptoms like increased heart rate and blood pressure, heart palpitations, etc. However, beta-blockers may have side effects such as blurred vision and might negatively interact with certain health conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to work closely with a doctor when taking some pharmaceuticals, and reach out to your doctor if you have side effects when taking a medication.
People might also look into developing stress management strategies. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing may be a helpful way to reduce anxiety.
What are the five categories of phobias?
The five categories of specific phobias include animal type (fear of spiders, dogs, etc.), natural environment type (such as heights, storms, etc.), blood injection-injury type (fear of seeing blood, receiving a shot, etc.), situational type (fear of elevators, activities, enclosed spaces, etc.) and other types (fear of vomiting or loud sounds, etc.)
What is phobia counseling?
It utilizes a gradual and controlled way of minimizing anxiety and fear while helping the individual develop new thought and behavior patterns. One of the most effective, specific phobias treatments is called exposure therapy. This involves gradual and repeated exposure to the feared object/situation in a safe environment. An individual will work with a mental health professional to learn how to cope with phobia-related anxiety and manage the thoughts and sensations when encountering something they fear.
Other treatment options may include CBT and medications such as SSRIs or beta-blockers, which could present a risk of undesired side effects. Therefore it is important to work closely with a doctor to determine an appropriate medication regimen. It might prove helpful to develop knowledge about mental health topics and healthy ways to manage stress, such as relaxation techniques.
What is the weirdest phobia?
There are various interesting phobias, such as arachibutyrophobia, which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. While some may sound silly to those who don't have them, it is important to remember that a specific phobia is a mental health disorder that can be debilitating to the individual experiencing it. There is a difference between having fear and having a phobia. When individuals have a real phobia, they will go to extreme lengths to avoid the feared object/situation, which can be very limiting and impact the quality of life.
What is the #1 phobia?
Phobias can significantly impact one's mental health and may decrease quality of life. There are many different types; however, the most common revolves around a fear of animals. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, commonly affects roughly 1 in 3 people.
Is trypophobia real?
Trypophobia is real — and can be defined as the intense fear of holes, particularly in repeating patterns (for example, an open pomegranate or dish sponge). Feelings of discomfort when seeing small holes may be linked with how the brain perceives potential threats. Though it has not been studied extensively, it seems common, as roughly 15% of people indicate disgust when viewing pictures of small holes. If symptoms of trypophobia are causing distress, it is worth discussing it with a mental health professional to find ways to cope.
What causes trypophobia?
Though the exact cause of specific phobias remains widely unknown, there is thought to be an interplay between genetics, brain chemistry, and an unpleasant experience with the object/situation that may trigger excessive fear and anxiety. Research shows that individuals with high levels of anxiety and other mental health disorders like panic disorder tend to be more prone to developing a phobia. Trypophobia is the intense fear of holes, particularly those in repeating patterns. Researchers suggest that small holes may resemble diseased skin or the skin/eyes of poisonous animals (such as spiders or octopuses). The brain may respond strongly to images that are associated with potential threats.
What is novinophobia?
Novinophobia is the fear of running out of wine. When individuals become aware that they are getting low on the wine, they may become excessively anxious.
What is trypanophobia?
Trypanophobia is an intense fear of medical procedures involving injections or needles such as blood tests, vaccinations, and intravenous fluids. Individuals with Trypanophobia experience debilitating symptoms of anxiety or panic when seeing a needle or before a medical procedure where needles will be present. If symptoms of Trypanophobia are causing significant distress or interfering with daily functioning, it is worth seeking the support of mental health professional to discuss treatment options.
What is the meaning of hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, also known as sesquipedalophobia, is ironically the fear of long words. The American Psychiatric Association doesn't officially recognize this as a phobia. Instead, it is categorized as social phobia, as it may be associated with fears of mispronouncing long words and being mocked or embarrassed by others.
What is megalophobia?
Megalophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an intense fear of large objects (buildings, vehicles, animals, etc.). One with megalophobia will go to extreme lengths to avoid encountering these triggers.
How do you get trypanophobia?
The exact cause of Trypanophobia is unknown, but various factors may predispose an individual to this phobia, such as temperament, genetics, environment, and negative past experiences. In the case of Trypanophobia (fear of needles), an individual may experience high anxiety levels in medical situations or have had a negative experience or reaction involving needles in the past, which leads to a learned association.
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a common phobia caused by the fear of open spaces. People with agoraphobia may avoid public transportation, especially if they find themselves enclosed in a subway car, a crowded bus, or even a compact taxi. Someone with agoraphobia may also stay away from crowds and lines of people.
What is the best therapy for phobias?
According to mental health studies, one of the most effective form of treatment for phobias is exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), an offshoot treatment based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. Exposure therapy may be especially effective in treating phobias like a fear of flying or of heights. People with phobias and other mental health conditions can face these fears in a safe mental health environment through this modality.
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