What is a phobia and how can you overcome it?

Reading time 6 minutes
What is a phobia and how can you overcome it?

Everyone is familiar with fears. Even if they feel unpleasant, they fulfill an important function from an evolutionary perspective: they warn us of danger. A phobia, on the other hand, is a different matter, as it can have a strong impact on everyday life and quality of life. In the following, you'll learn when we talk about a phobia and how you can get a grip on the problem.

Definition: What is a phobia?

One speaks of a phobia when someone has unreasonably strong Fear from objects or situations that do not rationally pose a threat. Unlike, for example, the generalized anxiety disorder phobias are exclusively situation- or object-related. This means that as long as the fear trigger is not in sight, sufferers have none Complaints.

Anyone suffering from a phobia usually knows that their fears are irrational or at least exaggerated. Nevertheless, it is not possible for those affected to expose themselves to the respective situations. So-called avoidance behavior develops, which, depending on the type of phobia, can severely restrict everyday life, e.g. in the case of a social phobia.

From this it can be concluded that not every phobia necessarily requires treatment. As long as the phobic objects or situations can be easily avoided without affecting the quality of life, therapy is only necessary if desired.

Example: Those who are afraid of snakes simply avoid these animals. The latter is not a big problem in our climes. If you have a fear of flying, you travel by train or car. However, if you have to fly on business or would like to make a long-distance trip, treatment can be useful.

Causes and development of a phobia

At the beginning of a phobia is the so-called conditioning. This is a process of Learning process, in which a neutral situation or object is negatively evaluated. Usually bad experiences - e.g. a dog bite or a very painful treatment at the dentist - set the conditioning in motion.

The affected person now links the sight, smell and sounds of the practice or the animal with pain and discomfort. The mere thought of the event leads to physical symptoms such as palpitations or sweating. This leads to the affected person trying to consistently avoid his personal fear trigger in the future.

what is a phobia

The 5 most common phobias and how to overcome them

In principle, it is possible to develop a phobia of anything and everything. The personal experiences and evaluations are decisive. Phobias can also occur individually or in combination. Among the five most common Specific phobias count:

  1. Environmental type (e.g. fear of heights)
  2. Animal type (e.g. fear of dogs)
  3. Situational type (e.g., fear of driving or flying).
  4. Blood-splatter injury type (e.g., circulatory collapse at sight of blood)
  5. Other type (e.g., fear of bacteria or fear of vomiting).

In addition, claustrophobia (fear of space) and dental phobia (fear of the dentist) are common. No matter what type of phobia it is: Overcoming it can only take place through confrontation. The person affected must experience that he or she is not in danger. Confrontation therapy should take place cautiously under the guidance of a psychotherapist.

Phobia or normal anxiety: how to tell the difference

The difference between a phobia and normal anxiety is the ongoing avoidance behavior that is typical of phobics. As explained earlier, fear is an important response to potential dangers that can drain your primal resources for Battle or escape. Once the anxiety situation is over, your body returns to calm.

In a phobia, however, the mere thought of the trigger triggers physical and psychological reactions. Moreover, it can be clearly defined that no real danger emanates from the fear object.

Recent research on the treatment of phobias

Experts agree that psychotherapeutic support is needed to overcome a phobia. Behavioral therapy has proven to be particularly effective for social phobia, which has a particularly strong impact on everyday life. This is clear from a current investigation of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

In the case of specific phobias, e.g. fear of animals or fear of heights, VR techniques are increasingly being used (VR: virtual reality). Here, the patient's fear situation is simulated without having to leave the therapist's consulting room. Whether VR can really represent the exposure therapy of the future is discussed in the following Professional article explained in more detail.

8 effective techniques to overcome phobia

The sooner you actively do something about your phobia, the better your chances of a complete cure. The following eight techniques can help you do this:

1. acceptance

The first step to overcoming a phobia is to admit the problem. Only in this way can you take active action. Also involve your close environment and ask for support.

2. relaxation

Relaxation techniques can alleviate the symptoms of a phobia and help you to ground yourself in the situation. Well suited are Meditation, yoga or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen.

3. sports

Physical activity releases happiness hormones, so that you feel more mentally balanced overall. The important thing is that it is a type of sport that you enjoy.

4. exchange

Many sufferers find it helpful to talk to other people. Knowing that you are not alone with your problem can be very healing. There are support groups for phobia patients in almost every major city.

5. confrontation

To conquer your phobia, there is no way around it: you have to face it, ideally with psychotherapeutic support. However, you can also take the first small steps on your own. Expose yourself to your fear situation as often as possible without overexerting yourself. To do this, it may be enough to repeatedly look at the object of fear from a distance.

6. do not be discouraged

Defeating a phobia takes time, as it is often the expression of a more deeply rooted problem. Therefore, after the first successes, there may be setbacks. Don't let this discourage you, but continue to pursue your goal of living phobia-free.

7. the 4-7-8 breathing technique

During a Panic attackwhich often occurs with phobias, the entire body is under high tension. This loss of control is experienced by most sufferers as very stressful. To prevent this from happening in the first place, it can help to concentrate on your breath.

The 4-7-8 breathing method has proven particularly effective: Breathe in through your nose and count to four. Then hold your breath and count to seven. The exhalation is through the mouth and takes the longest: 8 seconds. Repeat the technique until the panic has subsided.

8. release blockades

Fears and phobias are often based on inner blocks. If you identify and work through these, the anxiety symptoms will also improve. In our free mini-course on the topic of "Releasing Blockages", we give you the necessary tools for the road.

Releasing Blockages: Successfully overcoming a phobia

As already explained, fears and phobias are an expression of a mental problem that can be related to the object of fear, but does not have to be. In addition to concrete bad experiences, completely different blockages can also be hidden behind the phobia. In this case a problem shifting takes place. This can often be observed in traumatic childhood experiences.

Instead of dealing with the actual conflict, sufferers develop phobias of other things as a kind of avoidance strategy. Because what really torments them would be too burdensome. But only if the real blockages are treated can the phobia be conquered. Therefore, it is even more important to identify them. Here, our mini-course can be a first support for you.

Here, too, unblocking takes time and patience. Do not be discouraged by any setbacks and keep your goal in mind. It may even be painful to work through. However, perseverance is worth it. You will realize this at the latest when you have successfully mastered your phobias and (once again) have a fear-free and self-determined life lead.

Overcome phobia: How to release blockages and live freely

Still wondering if you're ready to take the first step? No question about it: facing up to your own internal blockades requires courage. That's why we would like to conclude by once again recommending our mini-course "Solving Blockades" to you. Completely free of charge, you will receive numerous valuable impulses that will support you on your way to a life without phobia.



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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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