This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidence-based education for the purposes of self-help and information.
Our world can be exciting, invigorating, and at times…scary. We all have our fears and in the past few years, many of us have experienced more fear around illness, mortality, and the unknown. During stressful times, fears and phobias can grow stronger, and anxiety and avoidance can become a feedback loop. The good news is that fear doesn’t have to rule your life, in fact, with the support of a good therapist, you can manage fear and phobias and actually use them to motivate, indicate, and even inspire you.
There are many kinds of phobias, some are well known, such as the fear of flying (Aerophobia), or the fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia), and others are lesser heard about, like the fear of bathing (Ablutophobia), or the fear of vomiting (Emetophobia).
Every phobia has its origins, a traumatic experience, a moment of abandonment, or an experience of embarrassment and shame. The natural response to something you’re afraid of is avoidance. After all, why would you want to go near something that makes your skin crawl and raises your level of anxiety? This can bring up a challenge, as avoiding what you fear reinforces that habit, and makes the fear more overwhelming when you are unexpectedly faced with a phobia.
How Phobias Or Anxious Obsessions Are Overcome
There are many different forms of therapy that can help with fears and phobias, including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Both of these use a form of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to decrease overall fears.
The term “exposure” in any form of therapy can bring up images of being tossed in a pit with snakes or dragged onto an airplane to overcome a fear, don’t worry, this is not how ERP works. In this form of therapy, exposure refers to a practice of confronting the thoughts around your fear, then looking at images, touching objects that may represent your fear, and only after doing these steps a number of times would you move towards actual situations that involve your phobia, obsession or anxiety.
For Emetophobia, this could begin with thinking about vomiting, imagining the sensations, and then the completion of that bodily response. A second step could involve looking at cartoon drawings of someone getting ill, and maybe even drawing your own. A third step might be playing with fake plastic vomit, and for the fourth step, while it wouldn’t be wise to induce it without a medical need, you could still experience some of those sensations by going through some of the usual motions that happen in a bathroom when someone is ill in this way.
The response and prevention part of ERP is helping you to make a conscious choice to behave differently in the face of a fear or phobia. This is done with the support of your therapist, and eventually it becomes a new habit/coping strategy that you can take into your life. Over time, this form of therapy can help to “retrain your brain” so that you no longer have any unmanageable feelings around your phobia.
General Fear and Anxiety Can Be Managed With Talk Therapy
If you are struggling with a more general sense of anxiety or if you have rushes of fear and worry, talking with a counsellor may be a good form of support. A therapist can help you to tune into why these worries are surfacing, at times consistently worrying about something that’s not actually likely to happen can be covering something else up that you’d rather not think about.
Knowing you’re not alone in your fears, discovering different ways to challenge the worries in your life such as journaling, group therapy, and self talk are all excellent ways to keep your worries and fears in check.
Learning When To Listen To Your Fears
The emotion fear is not a “bad” emotion (no feelings are bad, really) it’s just one that needs to be checked in on. Without a sense of fear, we could end up doing dangerous things. Learning to tune into your inner wisdom and be able to trust your “gut” is a valuable way to stay aware and safe from the real dangers that you may face. Every emotion has something to share with you, and when you have a clear, aware mindset you’re more likely to be able to hear what’s being communicated.
If you’re ready to explore and improve your connection to your thoughts and feelings with a therapist, please reach out. We have therapists at Christina Janiga Psychotherapy that are accepting new clients.
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