How to Treat Phobias

A phobia is an irrational, intense, and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, or persons. Almost everyone has even the simplest of social anxieties that are also considered as phobias, such as fear of embarrassment from the scrutiny of others. Although these phobias may linger for a long time, there are various ways to treat phobias, whether simple (such as fear of eating out in public) or specific (like fear of snakes).

Systematic desensitization

This is a series of treatments wherein a patient is taught to relax in order to control fear and anxiety responses to specific phobias. A part of this exercise includes showing images, or even a virtual reality simulation, of the feared entity before being exposed to the actual entity that the patient must learn to cope and gradually overcome the fear.

Modeling

Usually paired with systematic desensitization, this application lets the patient observe other people (or "models") in the presence of the phobic stimulus who are responding with relaxation rather than fear. In this way, the patient is encouraged to imitate the model and eventually relieve the phobia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This lets the patient understand the cycle of negative thought patterns and find ways to change these patterns. This treatment may be conducted in a group setting and can be performed along with systematic desensitization. The patient, however, should be willing to endure some discomfort and make a continuous effort over a long period of time.

Hypnotherapy

A patient undergoes hypnosis to help remove the associations that trigger a phobic reaction. It is also applied in order to modify a subject’s behavior, emotional content, and attitudes.

Neuro-linguistic programming

This program is an alternative approach to psychotherapy that is based on the subjective study of language, communication, and personal change. It is achieved by minimizing preconceptions and engage in unconscious micro-muscle modeling. NLP is often applied along with hypnotherapy.

Emotional freedom technique

EFT is another alternative to psychotherapy based on a theory that negative emotions are caused by disturbances in the body’s energy field. Tapping on the field’s "meridians" while thinking of a negative emotion alters the body’s energy field and eventually restore it to "balance." Although some critics describe this therapy as "pseudoscientific," it is allegedly useful.

Medication

Anti-anxiety, anti-depression, and even psychoactive medications such as benzodiazepine can help many cases of phobias. These are usually prescribed for short-term use.