In many popular culture depictions, phobias are laughable fears. A fun-loving sitcom character may for instance struggle to support her boyfriend at a broccoli-eating festival because she is harboring a fear of not just that vegetable but also all things green. In these situations, hilarity inevitably ensues and the show fades out with an extended laugh track.
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In real life, however, phobias are hardly funny. When real people deal with real phobias they often struggle profoundly, trying to navigate a world in which the thing they most fear is ever-present, and grappling daily to prevent this persistent and debilitating fear from derailing their lives.
Phobia sufferers don’t just have to resign themselves to living in fear, however. While lessening the impact of a phobia isn’t simple, there are things you can do if you or a loved one suffers from a phobia.
1. Exposure Therapy
Just as the name suggests, exposure therapy is a form of therapy in which the patient is exposed to the thing of which he or she is afraid. For example, a sufferer of Apiphobia, which is a fear of bees, may be exposed to buzzing soundtracks, photos of bees or, after substantial progress, maybe even a pesky little stinger itself.
Though it might sound like a form of torture, this type of therapy has been proven highly effective in treating suffers of specific phobias. That said, exposure to objects of which an individual is phobic could be quite traumatizing, so you shouldn’t attempt a DIY version of this therapy.
This course should only be undertaken by trained medical professionals who know how to deal with the potential ramifications of exposure.
2. Talk Therapy
Spending some time cozying up on a therapist’s couch could help assuage some phobias. Traditional talk therapy has been proven an effective method of reducing phobia severity or even eliminating the phobia altogether.
In these therapy sessions, therapists seek to unearth the underlying cause of the phobia or, when doing so is impossible, to help the patient develop tools for dealing with his or her fear more effectively.
Popping some pills may not always be the answer, but for some phobia suffers, taking medication can make a world of difference. There are three common medications used to treat phobias.
The first, beta-blockers, effectively block the adrenaline that produces the rapid heartrate and elevated blood pressure that accompanies fear.
The second, antidepressants, influence serotonin levels in the brain and reduce anxieties associated with phobias.
The final type, sedatives, helps reduce the anxiety an individual feels.
Because each medication works differently for each patient, your doctor may try several medications and play with the dosage before finding your “just right” option.
4. Yoga And Meditation
Non-invasive and relaxing, yoga and meditation are potentially effective methods of phobia reduction. Both of these forms of therapy are effective in calming upset and, as a result, help reduce the symptoms associated with phobias.
These types of treatment are particularly effective for use in treating social phobias, as sufferers of social phobias commonly experience lower-level upset over an extended period instead of short bursts of severe panic.
A few carefully placed pricks could make your fears easier to handle; presuming, of course, your phobia isn’t trypanophobia, or the fear of needles. Though research into the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating phobias is still ongoing, there is some evidence to suggest that this ancient Chinese medical treatment could help reduce the severity of anxiety associated with phobias.
Acupuncture is another form of treatment that you should never attempt at home. For success, you need a trained acupuncturist to guide you through this technique.
6. Herbal Treatments
Try herbal options for a natural way to ease your fears. The herb Kava, which comes from a South Pacific plant by the same name, has been shown effective in some studies in reducing anxiety.
Though this likely wouldn’t be an ideal go-to treatment for sufferers of chronic and severe phobias, those who suffer from low-level upset and anxiety could benefit from the inclusion of this herb into their daily regimen.