Treating Phobias

We’re all afraid of something. For some, it is heights. For others it is mice or snakes. But when we become so afraid of some regular part of life that it interferes with living a happy, fulfilled life, it means we suffer from a phobic disorder.

Where do phobias come from and is there any way to overcome them?

Fear is a good thing. Without it, we would jump off cliffs and stick our hand in the fire. We wouldn’t live very long. But too much of a good thing can be really bad for you. You may be one of those people, or maybe you know someone, who lives a life of torment because of an overwhelming fear. If, for example, you have agoraphobia, you avoid being around people because the experience brings up too much discomfort. That can seriously get in the way of living.

What can you do if you suffer from a phobia? Behavioral therapy tells us that the best way through a fear is through exposure therapy. This means you face your fear one small step at a time, over and over again, until you get used to it. If you are afraid of snakes, for example, first you might talk about snakes. Then you might look at a picture of snakes. Then you might look at a snake in a cage. Finally, when you are ready, you will hold a snake.

Many people, though, avoid doing exposure therapy, because they’re too afraid to try it! If you are one of those people, there is a great deal you can do to prepare yourself for that kind of therapy. First of all, it is important to do everything you can to lower your general anxiety level. This means living a clean, healthy lifestyle. Eat organic, whole foods. Avoid sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Take a good multi-vitamin and fish oil. Get a good amount of sleep. Exercise. Spend time in nature. Read good books. Watch uplifting movies. Do good things. Give yourself in service.

If you find that you have trouble making those lifestyle changes, and you recognize that your phobia is part of bigger questions about you and your life, find a good therapist or counselor.

Sometimes phobias go along with depression and general anxiety. If this is the case, speak with your medical doctor to see if medication might be right for you.

You can certainly try the many alternative treatments to medication, including acupuncture, yoga, and meditation.

Finally, there is a method that can give you help for your anxiety in the moment you need it. In this method, you learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings that signal that the problem is something that is happening in your brain and body, and not the thing you fear. Then it helps your body turn off its Panic Reaction and turn on its Safe Response. If you are interested in learning more about this, visit here.


Dr. Glenn Berger is a psychotherapist, relationship counselor, business and artist’s coach, and young person’s mentor. He sees patients in New York City, in Mt. Kisco, NY, and around the world by Skype.

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