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What is Phobia?
Specific phobias can take many forms including, situations such as flying, heights or driving, fear of objects such as needles, and fear animals such as spiders or dogs.
Most people can relate to having some fear of the examples however for it to be defined as a Phobia it needs to be more extreme, enduring and be having a significant impact on the person’s life. For example, it may make it difficult or impossible to go certain places and take part in certain activities.
What keeps Phobias going?
Phobias are kept going by two main factors:
- Fear of the object or situation itself. For example, someone with a fear of needles may have a specific fear about the amount of pain involved in having an injection or that the procedure won’t be done correctly and will cause them some harm.
- Fear of the physical symptoms of anxiety associated with the phobic situation. For example a person might with a phobia might fear becoming overwhelmed by feelings of panic if they are faced with their phobic object or situation.
As a result of the above people with phobias can get into unhelpful behaviours which keep their phobia going and make it worse. The most common unhelpful behaviour associated with phobia s is Avoidance. Avoidance tends increase the fear of an object or situation and prevents the individual from learning things that would help challenge their fears.
How can CBT help?
To overcome a phobia, individuals need to face their fears rather than avoiding them. CBT helps individuals do this in a controlled, gradual and systematic way. Common treatment strategies include:
- Understanding how the phobia has developed
- Identifying fears and unhelpful behaviours associated with phobia and related physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Learning to challenge fears and unhelpful behaviours associated with the phobia through gradual and repeat exposure to phobic object or situation.
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