Severe phobias can be very difficult to control, which is why it is strongly recommended that you seek out an anxiety therapist that understands how to help you control your phobias and reduce your anxiety when you’re faced with the object or situation of your phobia.
But if you have a very minor phobia, it may be possible to treat it on your own. The following is a very simple technique that can help you control your anxiety when faced with one of your phobias.
Introduction to Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a process that helps you slowly get used to a fear (a stimulus) until it no longer scares you. One of the reasons that people stay afraid is because they remove themselves from the fear and don’t get used to the feelings and emotions. With exposure therapy, you will slowly be exposed to all of the issues that cause you fear until it no longer has any effect on you.
For this example we’ll use a fear of spiders.
- Thoughts – First, schedule time to sit in a chair in silence and simply think about spiders for a long period of time. Don’t try to fight the thoughts, and do it for an extended period of time (at least an hour). If your phobia is strong enough you will likely experience some anxiety, but over time you will notice that the thoughts no longer scare you.
- Photos – Next, have a friend print out photos of a few dozen spiders. Then schedule time to sit in a room and look at each of the photos, staring at each photo individually until it no longer causes anxiety. Again, you’ll want to continue doing this for an extended period of time, and do not move on to a new photo until the previous photo no longer causes any fear.
- Videos – Thanks to the internet, you can now watch videos of spiders that adds a nice next step to the exposure therapy process. Have someone pre-select normal videos on spiders, and watch them over and over again on loop until none of the spider videos cause you any anxiety.
- Spider – Finally, have someone catch a spider and place it in a jar somewhere. Watch the spider move and walk around as much as you can. At first it may cause a lot of anxiety, but don’t run away. Just sit there watching the spider. Over time your mind and body will adjust when it realizes it is not in danger, and the spider will cause less fear.
Phobias are a fear response to a “danger,” where the danger is the object of your phobia. So if you allow yourself to get exposed to that fear for long enough, your mind will decide it’s not dangerous any more and will relax in its presence. This is the reason that mice that stay in a cage with snakes for an extended period of time stop fearing them – because over time, the fear goes away when nothing occurs. Their minds now realize that they are not in danger.
Exposure therapy is often best left in the hands of experts, so if you need a therapist with experience working with phobias in Long Island, give me a call today at (516) 732-0273. However, if you believe that your phobia is fairly minor, it may be possible to solve it alone using the tips above.