Technology, medication, natural methods, role-playing, and changing how one responds are all ways to overcome phobias. For people with a strong fear of flying, computer models have become a popular method to help overcome their fear. By sitting in a seat resembling an airplane and wearing a headset with real-life images, patients experience a realistic virtual flight that helps reduce their fear. People with agoraphobia, or the fear of certain locations, can take medication like selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or natural methods like getting enough sunlight, working out daily, and eating foods high in tryptophan.
Social phobia can be addressed by role-playing with other people in fear support groups. For those afraid of spiders, psychologists in Brazil have developed a new method that involves giving patients a CD with pictures resembling spiders, leading to a high success rate in overcoming the phobia. By utilizing these various methods, people can overcome their phobias and improve their quality of life.
Utilize technology to overcome phobias
About one in five people have such a strong fear of flying that it keeps them from traveling and hurts their careers. Traditional treatment involves going to an airport multiple times with a therapist, but computer models are becoming a more popular way to help people get over their fear. Participants sit in a seat that looks like one in an airplane and wear a headset that sends them pictures that look real. People often feel like they are actually flying because the experience is so real. At the Anxiety Disorders Center in Hartford, Connecticut, tests have shown that this treatment can work, and people who have tried it have said that their fear of flying went down a lot. The virtual flight should last at least an hour, and it might be necessary to do it more than once to get the desired results. The same kind of technology is used to help drivers get over their fears of car crashes.
Take a tablet before taking off
If you are afraid of flying because you are afraid of heights or a plane crash, you might want to ask your doctor for a benzodiazepine tranquilizer. These drugs can help temporarily calm your fears so you can handle flying. But it’s important not to mix the tranquilizer with alcohol because that can make the side effects worse, like nausea, tiredness, dizziness, slurred speech, and blurred vision. Your doctor may tell you to take a dose before the flight and a small dose more if you start to feel anxious during the trip.
Medication can be a useful treatment for people who have agoraphobia. People with this disease may experience severe life restrictions, being confined to their homes and unable to leave. Even when the condition is milder, people’s lives can still be limited by their dread of certain locations. The best treatments for agoraphobia have been found to be selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac (fluoxetine). If you experience agoraphobia, think about discussing drug options with your doctor.
Boost your levels
There are natural ways to raise your serotonin levels if you have mild agoraphobia or don’t want to take medications like SSRIs. Getting enough sunlight, working out daily, and eating foods high in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body make serotonin, are all good examples. Milk, yogurt, nuts, and beans are all good sources of tryptophan.
Prepare for your own healing
Social fear can be helped by doing role plays with other people who have the same problem. Social phobia is the fear of being judged, looked at, or embarrassed in public, like when you speak in public, meet new people, or go to a party. A skilled therapist can run the role play so that you can practice and get ready for situations that scare you. This will help you feel more confident. There are a lot of fear support groups that offer this kind of therapy, and you can find one that works for you by looking online.
Change how you respond
Psychologists in Brazil have come up with a new way to help people who are afraid of spiders (arachnophobia). Many people who are afraid of spiders don’t do well with standard treatments that involve being around real spiders. The Brazilian method is to give the patient a CD with pictures of things that look like spiders, like vaulting in a Gothic church or a camera on a tripod. Studies have shown that 42% of people who were afraid of spiders were able to touch one after looking at these pictures twice a day for four weeks. After six months, more than 90% of the people who took part were no longer afraid of spiders.
Reduce your sensitivity
Imagining yourself in a scary situation might seem counterintuitive, but it can help you face fears that cause physical signs like sweating, dizziness, fainting, palpitations, and a pounding heartbeat. This therapy is especially helpful for problems like vertigo, claustrophobia, fear of water, darkness, and natural events like storms and earthquakes. Systematic desensitization is a type of therapy in which patients are asked to imagine their fears over and over again until the events start to lose their power to make them feel anxious.
Imagine yourself facing your dread
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is a quick way to treat fears and problems that has been shown to work. The process is done in several steps by someone who has been trained to do it. First, the person is asked to picture themselves watching a black-and-white movie of themselves facing the thing or situation that scares them. For example, if they were in a field and birds were flying around their heads or if they were holding a boa constrictor. Then, they are told to imagine that they are floating out of their bodies and into a place where they can control what is happening, as if they were in a movie theater’s projection room. After “watching the film” and the scary things have gone away, the patient is asked to imagine going into the same scene in full color and doing it all over again from the beginning. The last step is for them to picture meeting a group of birds or picking up a snake. The patient’s fear will have gone away if the treatment works.
Don’t share your worries
Experts think that a child with a parent who has an anxiety disorder has at least a seven times greater chance of also having an anxiety disorder. Still, that doesn’t mean it will happen. In a study done in the U.S., both kids and their parents with anxiety problems got eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). During treatment, the adults learned to spot things they did that might make their kids nervous, like being too protective or saying their fears out loud. After a year, none of the kids had developed an anxiety condition because they had learned good ways to deal with stress. Thirty percent of the kids in a group that didn’t get CBT were labeled with anxiety problems that were bad enough to need therapy.
Give yourself a time of worry
For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), setting aside a 10-minute “worry period” at certain times of the day can be a good way to deal with their worries. Ideally, these times should happen at a certain place in the morning and evening. People can write down their fears and worries during these times. If bothersome thoughts or urges come up during the day, they can promise themselves that they won’t deal with them until the worry time. This method can help people with OCD get a better handle on their fears and make them less of a problem in their everyday lives.
Know your worth
Humanistic psychology stresses how important it is to be self-aware and take responsibility for yourself if you want to get rid of obsessive-compulsive disorder. People can learn to face their fears and break free from harmful ways of thinking and acting by working with a therapist or analyst. Humanistic psychology is different from other types of therapy because it focuses on the present and pushes people to take charge of their lives. This method can help people who have trouble with nervous thoughts, fears, superstitions, and compulsions like checking or washing their hands.
Consider the humor
When characters with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are portrayed in a funny way in TV shows or movies, it can help people with OCD see how crazy their habits are and become less attached to them. For example, the American TV show “Monk,” about a detective with OCD who cleans his hands over and over again, has made many people with OCD laugh and feel better. They can then start to see how funny and silly their own habits are. One in 50 people in both the UK and the USA are thought to have OCD.
Help yourself by taking action
The Q-sort test is a tool that people with OCD can use to help them. The test uses a deck of 100 cards, each of which has a personality quality written on it, such as “outgoing and social,” “high self-esteem,” or “organized and detail-oriented.” Participants are told to sort the cards into nine piles, from “not at all like me” to “very much like me,” using categories like “motivated,” “educated,” “lazy,” and “easy to know.” Then, the cards are mixed up, and the person is asked to arrange them again, but this time in a way that shows their ideal self. Comparing the two sets of sorted cards can help the person think about things in a more positive and self-assured way, making them less dependent on their OCD behaviors.
Take four stops
This simple plan can help you tackle your OCD.
- Try changing the way you think about your obsessions. Instead of thinking that you have to keep everything because it might come in handy someday, tell yourself that your passion is making you keep things you don’t need to.
- Rephrase: Admit that you have OCD and that it may be caused by your brain sending you false messages. But try to separate yourself from it by saying, “That’s not me talking, that’s my OCD.”
- Refocus: Don’t give in to your obsessions. Instead, find something else to do that will take your mind off of it. This could include working out, meditating, or going for a walk outside.
- Re-evaluate: Tell yourself that your obsession is not important, and try to make it less important in your thoughts. This can make it easier to ignore the urge and get on with your day.
If you have OCD and it is making your life hard or making you depressed, you might want to talk to your doctor about clomipramine, which is an antidepressant that is very good at helping OCD. Before you start to feel the full effects of the medicine, it may take six to eight weeks. You should also be aware of its side effects, such as dry mouth, tiredness, and weight gain. But many people with OCD find that the comfort they get from their obsessions makes up for the side effects.
You don’t have to deal with OCD on your own. Your primary care doctor can give you good advice and help, but it can be especially helpful to get support from people who know what you’re going through.
Deal with each worry individually
One way to make things that make you worried less scary is to face them straight on. Start by making a list of the things you’re most afraid of. Then, take them on one by one, starting with the least scary. For example, if leaving the house without double-checking that the heater is off makes you the least nervous, start by working on this. Instead of checking the stove several times, practice until you can just look at it once and leave. When you’ve solved this problem, move on to the next thing on the list. As you make progress, keep an eye on your worry levels and write down any changes. This can help you stay motivated to keep making progress.