A phobia is a specific, irrational fear of a certain thing or situation. There are hundreds of known phobias, but some common ones include fear of heights (acrophobia); fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); fear of places or situations you can’t escape (agoraphobia); fear of animals like dogs (cynophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia) or spiders (arachnophobia); and fear of flying (avaiatophobia).
People with phobias may experience deep feelings of dread or panic. Sometimes these feelings are so severe they interfere with everyday tasks and interactions, and this is when treatment is recommended. A person with a phobia often realizes their fear is irrational, but they still have difficulty regulating their fear. If untreated, phobias can grow until they become disabling to the point where a person may even be too scared to leave their home.
If you or someone you know has a phobia, you’re not alone. 19 million Americans suffer from some form of phobia.
Signs and symptoms
There are several signs and symptoms of phobias with a broad range of severity. Some phobias can cause panic attacks, avoidance of people or places or fainting.
Often, the symptoms are the same as those of a panic attack, such as:
Shortness of breath
Those who have a phobia will often go to great lengths to avoid the object of their phobia—often to a much greater extent than the danger the object really presents. For example, a person with a phobia of dogs may avoid simply taking a walk around their neighborhood for fear of just the possibility of encountering a dog.
How Crosswinds can help
To treat clients with phobias, Crosswinds uses an empirically validated process called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). As part of CBT, we also use exposure therapy, where the client is exposed to the object of their phobia in a safe, controlled environment. The client is taught to use coping techniques to calm themselves after facing their phobia. After multiple sessions of exposure and coping techniques, the intense fear surrounding the object will be neutralized.
Crosswinds also works with clients through a Christian worldview to help them experience lasting change, and this can be especially helpful in treating phobias. Therapists and clients may choose to reference Scripture for a better understanding of fear and how to work with it. An example of this can be found in Isaiah 35:4 (NIV) which states, “say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’” With this kind of spiritual guidance, hope can be restored—clients come to understand that God is for His people, and they can find comfort and peace in this understanding.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a phobia, Crosswinds therapists are here to help you return to a full and functional life, free from your fear. Please contact us: