It is important not to underestimate the debilitating effect of phobias or the frequency of their occurrence. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 10% of adults suffer from social phobias. Effective treatment of phobias requires a safe, spiritual setting and an environment like that of Northbound Treatment Services.
In overcoming a phobia, the sufferer must first come to understand the origin of the anxiety and how it affects the body and mind. The therapeutic process at Northbound helps clients liberate themselves from fear and normalize their feelings. Because phobias often co-occur with addiction, Northbound takes a comprehensive approach to treatment, addressing both the primary substance abuse and the secondary, or co-occurring, phobia.
Common phobias and their symptoms can include:
- Acrophobia: More commonly known as a fear of heights, acrophobia manifests not only in a tendency to avoid high places, but also as the cause of considerable anxiety.
- Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia refers to the fear of being in a crowd or an open space. This phobia can make it especially difficult for the sufferer to lead a normal life outside of the home, as venturing into large or crowded areas, from shopping centers to holiday celebrations; can easily trigger an anxiety attack.
- Social Phobias: Though they can be broken down into more specialized categories, social phobias generally revolve around a fear of social situations. Social phobias can be so severe as to cause people to avoid any of the events, places or people that might trigger an anxiety attack.
- Pteromerhanophobia: A common, yet often misunderstood phobia, pteromerhanophobia refers to the fear of flying. One of the classic treatment methods for this phobia is exposure therapy, where the client gradually increases his or her contact and experience with flying in an effort to learn to control the related anxiety and fear.
- Mysophobia: This irrational fear of germs or dirt is often related to or co-occurring with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Because Northbound looks to create a lasting and healthy transition, clients don’t begin behavioral therapy unless the majority of panic-attack symptoms are being managed. This often—and under the direction and oversight of a psychiatrist experienced in both phobia and addiction treatment—involves the class of drugs typically called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). In more severe cases, other “antidepressants” and some anti-seizure drugs may also be prescribed by the client’s psychiatrist. Medication is most helpful when an individual with the phobia is delusional or cannot respond to logic. However, Northbound always works with psychiatrists to seek the treatment path that relies as little as possible on the use of medication.
Our professional clinical staff members are aware of all of the treatment options available and discuss these at length with the client and/or the family. Decisions are made with the best interest of the client at heart and take into account personal history, health issues and the severity of the disorder. Considering these options and incorporating them into the client’s individualized treatment plan in an important part of the recovery process, and helps that person take the first steps toward reasserting control over the fears and anxiety that are disrupting his or her life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
At Northbound, we utilize a combination of individual and group therapies. One of the most powerful tools available for social phobia treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT looks at the way we think about and respond to situations and how that affects our phobias. Generally, there is a cognitive distortion at play in these social interactions that is at the root of the phobia. Addressing these tendencies can lead to the development of normalized thoughts and responses.
CBT will change behavior and responses to situations where anxiety and fear may have been heightened previously. This behavioral therapy will help diminish the panic attacks commonly associated with phobias. Additionally, the staff at Northbound will utilize breathing and meditation techniques to help reduce anxiety. CBT, coupled with a healthy diet and limited use of caffeine and nicotine, can increase the client’s success with managing stress, anxiety and phobias.
The Long Term
As our clients progress through treatment and their moods and feelings stabilize, exposure therapy may also play a part in their treatment. Exposure therapy is a type of psychotherapy which gradually exposes the client to the source of their fear. Forcing the client to face his or her fears while using the relaxation and CBT techniques he or she has already learned may help eliminate the phobia. Difficult, yet effective, exposure therapy is only undertaken when clinically appropriate and in a safe setting.
Treatment for phobias does work, but it takes time. Early intervention and continued maintenance allow people to live with their fear as the symptoms slowly diminish. Northbound Treatment Services provides the environment and the tools to start this process.