Spiders. Dentists. Elevators. Flying. These are just a few of the common irrational fears (AKA ‘phobias’) that many of us suffer from. Phobias can make everyday tasks difficult (such as not being able to use the bath because of a spider in it) or even get in the way of goals (such as not being able to travel abroad because of a fear of flying).
While many of us are aware that the object of our fear is often harmless, the brain often creates a mental barrier that is hard to break down. For those who are ready and eager to overcome a phobia, here are a few ways to break down that mental barrier.
Overcome a Phobia #1: Do Your Research
Researching the object of your fear can help to understand important information and realize that it isn’t as sinister as you think. Just make sure that you’re not focusing wholly on the negatives. If you’re scared of flying, don’t just focus your research on fatal crashes – instead, consider how many planes never crash at all, as well as looking into onboard safety features. This could help to reinforce positive feelings around your fear.
Overcome a Phobia #2: Confront Your Fear
You can’t overcome fear without confronting it first. Some people can benefit from a gradual exposure that involves slowly building a tolerance to fear in stages. With fear of spiders, this may include first looking at or touching pictures of spiders, touching dead spiders and then handling live spiders, starting with small ones and working your way up to the big ones. This approach doesn’t work for everyone and some people can benefit more from jumping in the deep end and using prolonged exposure until the mind realizes it is not a stressful situation.
Overcome a Phobia #3: Hypnotherapy
There are hypnotherapists out there such as William Wood who may be able to help you overcome your phobia. This involves essentially recalibrating your mind to think positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts when faced with the object of your fear. There are many different hypnotherapy strategies that you can try to achieve this with the help of a professional.
Overcome a Phobia #4: Use Humor
Humor is one way to work through stressful situations by flooding the body with feelgood endorphins to counteract the high levels of cortisol. This could allow you to then relax more and not dwell on fear and anxiety. Stand up comedian and neuroscience student Daniel Hardman delves into this strategy more for those who are interested.
Overcome a Phobia #5: Team up with Fellow Sufferers
A sense of camaraderie and connection could also help you to face your fears. Many people are able to confront phobias if they know other people share the same struggle and understand the related emotions. There could even be a positive ‘fear’ of letting these other people down by not confronting your fear with them. There are group phobia treatment classes out there that might be a positive social experience as well as help you work through your phobia.