However, it is important to face your fears. Otherwise, the situation is only going to get worse.
It seems counterintuitive to expose yourself to something that upsets you. That’s especially true if it’s something that seems easily avoidable.
For example, if you have a phobia of elevators, then it’s easy to just take the stairs.
Unfortunately, anxiety tends to grow when we don’t deal with it head-on. Before you know it, your fear of elevators could lead to other phobias. Eventually, they’ll limit your life if you let them.
Luckily, there are clear strategies in place for people struggling with a phobia. Therefore, you can face your fears in a manageable way that will help you without harming you.
The big reason to face your fears when struggling with a phobia is that failure to do so will likely lead to an increased phobia. Here are three more reasons:
When you avoid a phobia, it feels good. You feel momentary relief. This tells your brain that avoidance is good. Therefore, it becomes that much more difficult to face your fear the next time.
When you opt to avoid your fears, you tell yourself “I can’t do this.” You begin to believe that you are limited in your abilities. Ultimately, this decreases self-esteem.
In contrast, when struggling with a phobia but choosing to face your fears, you feel empowered. You can do things despite your phobia.
If you don’t deal with your phobia, then you can develop a fear of the fear itself.
For example, let’s say that you have a fear of spiders. Instead of being afraid when you see a spider, you become afraid about how afraid you might be if you see one. You become afraid of the fear, not just the spider.
So, how do you go about facing your fears when you are struggling with a phobia?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provides answers. CBT helps you take a look at the thoughts behind your fears and behaviors. Then you can learn to change your thinking as well as your actions.
Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is a specific type of CBT. ERP is frequently used to help people who are struggling with a phobia. As the name suggests, it involves exposure to the source of fear. Furthermore, you learn to find ways to face those fears.
The process is very gradual. A therapist helps guide you, using knowledge and experience to keep you safe.
You don’t want to overwhelm your system with too much exposure. However, you do need to push yourself to go past your comfort zone and overcome your phobia.
For example, let’s go back to the example of a spider phobia. You’ll work to understand the thoughts behind this phobia, checking them against facts. Furthermore, you’ll work on gradual exposure to spiders.
Depending on the severity of the phobia, the steps might include:
Throughout the entire process, you work to regulate your fear. You don’t go past the point of tolerance. However, you take further steps each time, until finally, you are free of your spider phobia.
If you are struggling with a phobia then it helps to find a therapist with experience in CBT/ERP. Please, visit here to learn more about my treatment options.