The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
We all know what fear feels like. And sometimes, fear is perfectly reasonable. After all, we evolved to have a “fight-or-flight” mechanism that is triggered by certain external stimuli. Let’s say you see something that threatens your safety—it’s perfectly normal for you to be afraid.
But what about fear that isn’t necessarily so logical? When the fear or something is disproportional to the actual threat or danger it poses, and the fear disrupts one’s life, this is called a phobia. An example of a common phobia is agoraphobia, or fear of going outside.
While phobias can be debilitating, they don’t have to be! Read on for five ways that you can work on overcoming your phobias so you can live your life to the fullest.
5 Methods for Working On Your Phobias
Overcoming your phobias is far from impossible, and luckily there are many resources now available online to help answer any questions you might have about your phobias: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/phobias/
Here are five legitimate ways that you can work on your phobias.
Biofeedback uses medical technology so that your vital signs can be monitored while you face your phobia. This is often done with a doctor or therapist.
Let’s say that you’re afraid of spiders. While you’re hooked up to electrical sensors, you would then be exposed to spiders (whether virtually or in person, depending on the severity of the phobia and the stage of your progress). Your vital signs would then show the extent to which you are able to cope with exposure to the spiders.
The idea behind biofeedback is that you can see your physiological response and work on lowering it over time with more exposure to your phobia.
Virtual reality therapy
You’ve probably heard of or seen virtual reality headsets for video games, but this is a tool that has many applications. For example, virtual reality therapy has been used to help people overcome their phobias.
How, you might ask? It’s relatively simple. Instead of having to confront one’s phobia in person, the virtual reality headset will be used to make it seem as if the phobia is really there. This may help people with phobias overcome their phobia more gradually since they know going into it that they don’t really risk direct exposure with their fear.
Virtual reality therapy can thus be a great steppingstone on the path to recovery from a phobia or phobias.
As with many of these methods, the basic principle of systematic desensitization is exposure. So, patients will be exposed to a mild form of their phobia as they are prompted to relax. For example, they may be simply told about their phobia while they practice meditation and deep breathing.
Over time, the patient is given increasing exposure to their phobia. The idea is that, with time, the fear can be overcome gradually. The desensitization is thus carried out in a gradual, systematic way.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Therapy can be beneficial for so many reasons, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms. Ultimately, CBT works to change thought patterns and thus behavior. So, for someone who has a phobia, CBT would work on changing the way they perceive and process the object of their phobia in order to reduce their negative reaction to it.
CBT is practiced by many licensed therapists and counselors and so is an accessible form of treatment for many.
If you have severe phobias and nothing seems to be working, medication may be a good option to consider. Of course, you should always speak with your doctor before considering any form of new medication.
To help you with your phobias, your doctor might consider anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines. The preferred method of overcoming your phobias, however, would be a form of therapy like the ones reviewed above. This is because they don’t require substances that may be habit-forming and have other side effects.
In any case, always be sure to consult your doctor regarding any medication.
Ultimately, phobias can make life quite difficult, especially so if you have certain phobias that make being social difficult, such as agoraphobia. No matter your phobia, however, there’s help out there. Consider trying the above methods so that you can live a happier, more fulfilling life.