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Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that affects approximately 4 to 5 percent of the U.S. population and occurs in people of all ages. The average age of onset for social phobias is between 15 and 20 years old; however, there are also children as young as eight years old with phobias. (NIMH 2014) According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders in general affect 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 years and older, which is 18 percent of the U.S. population.
A consistent fear of encountering a specific thing, place, situation or person that brings on unnecessary stress and anxiety in irrational forms is considered a phobia. Specific phobias generally focus on animals, germs, closed-in places, heights, thunder, driving, public transportation, flying, dental or medical procedures and/or elevators. Studies show that people who have phobias realize that their fears are irrational. The thought of the situation, person, place or thing will produce a reaction similar to that of a panic attack.
The irrational fears of specific phobias that are generated by the thought or presence of the fear typically last at least six months. Specific phobias interfere significantly with a person’s usual routine, social activities, relationships or academic functioning.
Specific phobias have a high prevalence of comorbidity with other mental health disorders. Traumatic events in the person’s life can result in anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), avoidance and phobia like symptoms. (NIMH 2014) Traumatic events can also result in phobias without the onset of other mental health disorders such as PTSD.
Whether the treatment is inpatient or outpatient, treatment of phobias utilizing psychotherapy such as exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, alternative therapies such as breathing techniques, mindfulness therapies and equine therapy can provide ways for people suffering from phobias to attempt to change their ways of thinking. A medical doctor or psychiatrist can also prescribe medications that will assist in the alleviation of phobia anxiety.
Exposure therapy is a helpful treatment for specific phobias, as it is a way to gradually ease the feared person, place, thing or object into the person’s life. This is done by prioritizing the fears from the scariest to the least scary, and then utilizing a system of facing the fear by exposing oneself to it by observing it in one way or another. This can be done with pictures, videos or in person.
Utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) will allow a person to learn how his or her thoughts may be irrational, and how the thoughts control feelings. The therapist works with the patients to help them recognize any patterns of behavior that stem from negative thoughts or worldviews. Being able to recognize the pattern between the thinking and the behavior, in this case the fear or phobia, can be beneficial in changing one’s thinking.
Interpersonal therapy can also be helpful in treating anxiety disorders, as it helps a person reach goals to improve his or her interpersonal skills. During interpersonal therapy, the therapist teaches the patient how to evaluate social interactions, recognize negative patterns and then strategize to find better ways to interact with others.
Learning how to relax is the best way to combat phobias, as well as any other anxiety. The therapeutic value of grooming a horse has shown to be extremely beneficial in guiding the mind to relax. Stress management isn’t a skill that most people with anxiety disorders have, generally speaking. Grooming a horse not only allows for the person to relax, but also builds a relationship over time, as the person and the horse start to bond. Horses have a natural ability to tune in with people. Studies show that horses are naturally sensitive to their environments due to being prey animals. Recently, horses have been used in a variety of treatment settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools. (Rector 2001)
Pharmacological treatments for anxiety disorders such as phobias can also be helpful. Medications that are usually prescribed by a doctor to a person with anxiety disorders are beta blockers that block the stimulating effects of adrenaline in the body. Antidepressants, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be beneficial in the treatment of phobias, as they’re able to elevate the level of serotonin in the brain. Sedatives like benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety pills which should be avoided if a person has a history of substance abuse or drug dependence.
Sovereign Mental Health offers a combination of individual and group psychotherapy, alternative therapies such as yoga, equine therapy, mindfulness meditation, art therapy and music therapy. During the admission process, patients undergo a thorough assessment to find any underlying and co-occurring conditions. We offer inpatient or outpatient treatment at various locations across the nation to tailor to your geographic preference.
Call our Admissions Team today at (866) 954-0529 to learn more about treatment options for anxiety disorders such as phobias, or any other mental health disorder.
Sovereign Health Group is a residential rehabilitation treatment provider that has programs and services devoted to mental health conditions. To learn more about our continuum of care, speak with one of our expert treatment consultants and begin the journey to recovery today!
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