Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder, the most common of all the mental disorders. Many people misunderstand these disorders and think people should be able to overcome the symptoms by sheer willpower. But, the symptoms can't be willed or wished away. There are treatments, developed through research, that work well for these disorders.
Anxiety disorders are treated in two ways - with medication and with certain types of psychotherapy (sometimes called "talk therapy"). Sometimes only one treatment is used or both treatments are combined. If you have an anxiety disorder, talk with your doctor about what will work best for you. If you do choose psychotherapy, make sure the therapist is able to provide you with medication, if needed.
A number of drugs used for treating depression , called antidepressants, have been found to help with anxiety disorders as well. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are used, along with the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other medicines include anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines and beta-blockers.
Treatment with psychotherapy includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavioral therapy. In CBT, the goal is to change how a person thinks about, and then reacts to, a situation that makes them anxious or fearful. In behavioral therapy, the focus is on changing how a person reacts to a situation. CBT or behavioral therapy most often lasts for 12 weeks. It can be group or individual therapy. With phobias, a type of CBT called desensitization or exposure therapy is sometimes used. This involves slowly exposing the person to what frightens them until the fear begins to fade. Relaxation and breathing exercises can also help reduce anxiety symptoms. Some studies have shown that the benefits of CBT or behavioral therapy last longer than do those of medications for people with phobias.
Keep in mind that it can be a challenge to find the right treatment for an anxiety disorder. But, if one treatment doesn't work, the odds are good that another one will. Your doctor and therapist will work together to help you find the best approach. New treatments are being developed through ongoing research. So, don't give up hope. If you have recovered from an anxiety disorder and it comes back at a later date, don't think that you've failed. You can be treated again. And, the skills you learned dealing with the disorder the first time can help you in coping with it again.
Many people find it helps to join a support group because they can share their problems and successes with others who are going through the same thing. While it doesn't take the place of mental health care, talking with trusted friends or a member of your faith community can also be very helpful. Family members can pla...