A Phobia is the persistent fear of an object, an animal or a situation. The fear is so strong and uncomfortable that the person will generally seek to avoid it or if unavoidable with endure it with considerable anxiety and distress. While the person will recognise their fear as excessive, they are unable to control its effects on them. Phobias even if they seem to relate to just one small specific situation, commonly cause great difficulties to general life functioning.
Most commonly phobias develop as a result of learning. Learning from a bad past experience where we were perhaps bitten by a dog when we were young and this caused us to view all dogs as bad and something to be frightened of. Or maybe learning from observing others, seeing a family member scared of spiders may have caused you to also view them as a fearful stimulus. Either way, the phobia has likely developed in childhood and has been with you for some time by the time you reach the therapy room. Results can then not be expected overnight but CBT can work very effectively.
So how have you coped with an intense fear all the way to adulthood? The most common method is to avoid the feared stimulus (the spider/the blood/the clown/the dogs/the vomit etc.). By avoiding something you keep yourself safe. You also never have the opportunity to learn that you can overcome your fear, that you can cope with the situation. Instead, you avoid, you stay safe and you continue to believe that had it not been for this avoidance your worst case scenario that you played over in your head would have come true.
Ending avoidance will be key to your success in therapy - it is however absolutely not a case of “fear of water - throw them in the deep end”. In CBT we will create a list of your fears, rank them and begin to work on facing them one by one, increasing the difficulty week on week. You will always be supported, potential problems will be well thought out together and therapy will always move at your pace.
You will also be taught about anxiety and your thoughts that cause it. We will analyse what types of thoughts you have that are causing the anxiety and work on ways to manage and change these. We will learn where the phobia has come from and also learn relaxation techniques that will keep overall anxiety levels down.