Dealing with Phobias and Fears
You can learn to deal with phobias and fears. For example, I'm getting on a whole bunch of trains this week. That's something I couldn't do a couple of years ago. Public transport just wasn't my thing, and over time I developed a full-blown phobia of trains and other public transport.
Before I started anxiety treatment, I went through a lot of the symptoms of panic, feeling deeply uncomfortable at the thought of doing any number of relatively 'easy' daily things. It pretty much came down to feeling way too out of control, like I couldn't cope with the ordinary things.
[caption id="attachment_481" align="alignright" width="170"] Phobia and Fear: The Silent Scream[/caption]
I had what's called a specific phobia but it was, and is, so much more than that:
- 15 million American adults experience social phobia (take this online social anxiety test)
- and 19.2 million American adults have a specific phobia (or two).*
That fear was a reflection of the general anxiety I went through at the time, and the degree to which my symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder had gotten out of control. A year or so later I catch trains every week. That's a thing: A reality shift. Not just a 'diet-and-lifestyle thing' but a tangible encounter with calm, through self help anxiety treatment and psychotherapy.
The Reason for Phobias and Fear Is Always 'Real'
For most people with an anxiety disorder, there's a very good reason for the fear being there in the first place. If you're afraid of flying, maybe it started after September 11. Or if you have trouble with obsessive compulsive behaviours, generalized or social anxiety then maybe it began in childhood as a seemingly off-hand comment by a parent or friend and that simply stuck in your head.
Anxiety and stress are normal things. We all feel anxiety and stress. But when anxiety stops you from doing things with your life that you really want to do, that you ought to be able to do (like catching a train), you may be developing an anxiety disorder or phobia.
Dealing with Phobias and Fears
Well, first, I'm not totally over it or anything. The fact that I can catch a train doesn't mean the fear magically up and disappeared. It still takes work.
But what I did was good enough. I stopped panic getting any bigger, and at that point it became possible to treat anxiety. There's nothing so special about me that means you can't do it too. It takes time, though. And dedication, and the capacity to willingly face that which scares you.
In this instance I used exposure therapy on myself,and it worked because I was ready. After too many years of kicking myself for not knowing how to stop anxiety, it finally clicked. I finally felt like I could rely on the anxiety coping tools I knew. The words which I'd been told so many times came together and they meant something. I could talk myself through it, every step I needed to take.
Stopping anxiety isn't about one technique or another. It comes from something far less tangible - from being able to stay with yourself the whole way through.
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*Statistics apply to any given year, taken from the NIMH
White, K. (2010, October 13). Dealing with Phobias and Fears, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2010/10/types-of-phobias-dealing-with-fears-and-social-phobia
Author: Kate White
The problem with may of these types of stories is they give the impression that if everyone faces their fears head on they're soon on their way to recovery
Quoting form article: "Well, first, I’m not totally over it or anything. The fact that I can catch a train doesn’t mean the fear magically up and disappeared. It still takes work.
But what I did was good enough. I stopped panic getting any bigger, and at that point it became possible to treat anxiety. "
I've battled Social Phobia since I was about 4-5 years old and I'm 49 years old now! I've faced my fears and it's still a constant struggle...and it essentially robbed me of a life.
I've spent 20+ years hiding from the world and people. I never dated, I rarely socialize and social functions are an ordeal to suffer through. Not much of a cure. Yet the psychiatric view is that that's 'good enough', I just expect to much.
I feel like my body betrayed me and the medical community failed me miserably.
Why would a 4 year old ( or 5,6,7, etc) fear the world so much that he can't go on playdates, sleepovers, would rather pee his pants than use a school washroom, can't change fro gym class?? This was the level of my fear and embarrasement.
You're absolutely right, and I've really no intention of telling anybody it's that simple. It's always a battle, and I'm sorry your battle has gone on for so long with so much fear and pain. And it sounds like not nearly enough tangible security to hold onto.
Recovery isn't something I can do justice to in a 600 word or less blog post. I know that. But I like to offer hope. And I don't believe it's false hope:
It's just a blog, and I'm talking to a really broad audience here at HealthyPlace, with such a broad a range of anxiety issues (in all their complexity). There's just no way I can do anything other than just skim the surface stuff, most of the time. I hope people know that, and that if something is useful for somebody, well I think that's great. But I certainly don't know everything, and what I do know, well, it isn't going to apply to everybody. And it isn't always going to get as deep into the issues as I wish I could, with a little bit more word space, etc.
I wish there were simple answers. That I had a magic wand for those of us who will always have to deal with our mental health struggles, one way or another. No matter how "well" we get.
Of course I don't have that. But I will be thinking of you. It's isn't much, but it's about the best response I can think to give you just now