Phobias (cont.)

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What is the treatment for phobias?

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Helping phobia sufferers is thought to be most effective when psychotherapy and medications that are specific to the treatment of phobia are both used. One type of mental-health therapy involves the supportive and gradual exposure of the person with phobias to situations that are increasingly similar to the one they are phobic about (desensitization). These circumstances can either include actual or computer-generated anxiety-provoking stimuli.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to often quite effectively decrease phobic symptoms by helping the person with the illness change his or her way of thinking. CBT uses three techniques to accomplish this goal:

  • Didactic component: This part of treatment involves educating the person about phobias and treatment and helps to establish positive expectations for therapy and promote the cooperation of the individual with a phobia.
  • Cognitive component: It helps to recognize the ideas and assumptions that influence the behavior of the phobia sufferer, especially those that may predispose him or her to developing the disorder.
  • Behavioral component: This uses behavior-modifying techniques to teach the person with a phobia more effective strategies for coping with problems.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are often used to treat phobias, especially when desensitization and CBT are inadequately effective. These medications enhance levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples of these medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), vortioxetine (Brintellix), and vilazodone (Viibryd). The possible side effects of these medications can vary greatly from person to person and somewhat depend on which medication is being used. Common side effects of this group of medications include dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, nausea, tremors, trouble sleeping, blurred vision, constipation or soft stools, and dizziness. Some people gradually gain weight over time. In rare cases, people have been thought to become more acutely more anxious or depressed on the medication, even trying to or completing suicide or homicide. Children and teens are thought to be more vulnerable to this rare side effect compared to adults.

Phobias are also sometimes treated using beta-blocker medications, which decrease the physical symptoms associated with panic by blocking the effects that adrenaline (epinephrine) has on the body. One example of a beta-blocker is propranolol. These disorders are also sometimes treated with drugs in a medication class called benzodiazepines or minor tranquilizers. This class of medications causes relaxation but is used with caution these days to treat anxiety due to the possibility of addiction and the risk of overdose, especially if taken when alcohol is also being consumed. Examples of medications from that group include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2016


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Phobias - Cause Question: What was the cause of your phobia?
Phobias - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your phobia(s)?
Phobias - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your phobia?
Phobias - Types Question: Describe your phobia, how it makes you feel, and if you've received treatment for it.
Phobias - Assessment Question: Discuss the tests, exams, and/or different doctors you saw to treat your phobia.
Phobias - Coping Question: Please share tips and suggestions for how to cope with your particular phobia.