Phobias - Treatment

What was the treatment for your phobia?

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What is the treatment for phobias?

Helping those who suffer from phobias is thought to be most effective when psychotherapy and medications that are specific to the treatment of phobia are both used. One form of psychotherapy involves the supportive and gradual exposure of the individual with phobias to circumstances that are increasingly close to the one they are phobic about (desensitization). These situations can either consist of actual or computer-generated anxiety-provoking stimuli.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to significantly decrease phobic symptoms by helping the phobia sufferer change his or her way of thinking. CBT uses three techniques to accomplish this goal:

  • Didactic component: This phase involves educating the individual about phobias and treatment and helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the cooperation of the person with a phobia.
  • Cognitive component: It helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the person's behavior, particularly those that may predispose him or her to being phobic.
  • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modifying techniques to teach the individual with a phobia more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are often used to treat phobias, particularly when desensitization and CBT are inadequately effective. These medications affect levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples of these medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro). The possible side effects of these medications can vary greatly from person to person and 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. In very rare cases, some people have been thought to become more acutely more anxious or depressed once on the medication, even trying to or completing suicide or homicide. Children and teens are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this rare possibility.

Phobias are also sometimes treated using beta-blocker medications, which decrease the physical symptoms associated with panic by blocking the effects that adrenaline has on the body. An example of a beta blocker is propranolol. These disorders are also sometimes treated with drugs in a medication class known as benzodiazepines. 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).

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