A specific phobia is an intense, unwarranted fear of certain things or situations. Dogs, spiders, closed-in spaces, heights, water, injections, and air travel are a few of the more common ones.
If you have a phobia, your fear is not only extreme, it is resistant to your efforts to rationally talk yourself out of it. You may be able to climb a very tall ladder but experience terror at the prospect of getting into an elevator. Your worry about the prospect of having to face the feared situation is another source of distress. You try to avoid it, but when it cannot be sidestepped, you experience the symptoms of extreme anxiety or even have a panic attack.
Depending on the type of phobia, it can seriously interfere with your normal routine, be a burden in your relationships, or seriously impair your ability to work. For example, if you fear driving on the freeway, or crossing a bridge, you may find yourself living an increasingly constricted life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “successful treatment usually involves a kind of CBT called exposure therapy, in which patients are gradually exposed to what frightens them until the fear begins to fade. Three-fourths of patients benefit significantly from this type of treatment.”
(Note: I’m one of very few practitioners in the county who will accompany you out into the “real world” when advisable. For example, if you fear driving on the freeway, I’ll get into the car with you and coach you in using the tools you’ve learned in therapy.)
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