Therapy for Phobias: EMDR, CBT and Mindfulness in London
Phobias can cause reactions that range from mildly inconvenient fears of an object or situation to extreme terror that paralyses us completely.
Many people choose to avoid coming into contact with the cause of their phobia. Someone with a fear of heights will not go out on the balcony, for instance. If you hate spiders, you’ll tend to avoid places where those eight-legged friends hang out.
At the Positive Mind Practice, we regularly see clients that have a phobia and want to do something about it.
Some have a severe problem that fills them with fear; others have a less troublesome phobia but want to change the way they feel. This is a diverse area of therapy and one where no one person is the same as another.
What Are Phobias?
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is focused on a particular object or a situation. The most common are:
- Agoraphobia: fear of open or crowded spaces.
- Social phobia: fear of social gatherings or events.
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders.
- Claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces.
- Acrophobia: fear of heights.
Phobias are often caused by a bad experience in childhood or early adulthood. An example would be if someone were attacked by a dog when they were a child. They may carry this fear with them into adulthood even though most dogs are unlikely to bite them.
Phobias can also be learnt if a member of the family has a fear or anxiety that they are unable to control. There are complex phobias which are more difficult to dissect because they may have several underlying causes.
CBT and Phobias
Many people can control their phobia without it having a huge impact on their life. Someone who doesn’t like heights can find ways to avoid them. Other phobias are more problematic. If you have a fear of flying and you need to travel a lot, for example, therapy of some kind may help.
CBT or cognitive behaviour therapy is the most popular therapeutic choice when it comes to psychological challenges such as phobias. CBT is a form of counselling that enables you to address your fear and put in place strategies for coping with it.
This can include methods to reduce anxiety using mindfulness and meditation. Increased exposure or desensitisation to something that you fear can also work to reduce the emotional turmoil.
If you have a fear of spiders, for example, your therapist might start by getting you to research and read about them. That will progress to looking at images and videos. You might then increase your exposure, perhaps viewing live spiders in enclosed cases. The final step would have a spider out in the open or even getting you to hold one.
Therapy may mean that it doesn’t affect the individual as much as before. However, someone may not enjoy flying at all, but they can get onto a plane following therapy and travel from A to B using certain coping mechanisms like meditation.
Using EMDR to Treat Phobias
Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing is a therapeutic technique that has been shown to work for individuals who suffer from high levels of anxiety such as trauma. It’s also a suitable mechanism for helping people overcome problems like phobias and fears.
With a therapist, an individual is asked to recall seeing, for example, a spider and think about the feelings and sensations that they experience during this time. While this happens, bilateral stimulation is used to lessen the emotional impact.
This may involve getting the individual to track a light moving from side to side or listening to a sound alternating between the ears. This approach has been shown to help people process highly emotional situations better and very fast alleviating the impact of the feelings associated with phobias.
Using this process, many people can reprocess how they react to objects or situations that cause their phobia. Often it just takes one session to remove the distress altogether.
Can Mindfulness Help Beat a Phobia?
Another approach for helping people deal with phobias is mindfulness. This has proved useful with a range of psychological challenges, including anxiety and depression. Mindfulness uses a meditation approach to basically step back and view your emotional response to certain stimuli non-judgmentally.
Research has shown that it’s a great way to modulate our emotions and keep things on an even keel. With the help of a qualified therapist, you will begin to tune into your senses and see them in a different light.
For example, if you have a fear of insects, mindfulness can change your attitude by helping you realise that your response is disproportionate. It is a gradual process that mainly breaks the link between your phobic reaction and the stimulus itself. Over time, you learn to have a more positive reaction.
Mindfulness and meditation require constant practice, and they can be difficult to get the hang of at first. Once your practice is ingrained, and you understand how it works; however, it often has a remarkable impact on dealing with challenges such as phobias.
It can also help with other aspects of your life, especially if you are more prone to feeling anxious for a variety of reasons.
Finding a Phobia Specialist Near Me
Many people come to our London clinic not because they struggle with their phobia but because they don’t want to have it control their life in any way. Many phobias can easily be avoided, and that’s what the vast majority of people tend to do.
If you have a phobia that does impact your daily life, however, it’s important to do something positive to break the cycle. Our qualified therapists at Positive Mind Practice work with people from all walks of life in the London area. We can use the fastest approach that suits you, whether ii’s CBT, EMDRor mindfulness meditation to help you overcome your worst fears.
If you would like to break the hold a phobia has on you, contact us today and make an appointment.