Conquer Your Fears: EMDR Therapy for Phobias
No one likes to feel afraid. Most of us don’t even like to admit to feeling afraid, and yet it turns out that phobias are extremely common. Phobias affect between 9-16% of Americans in a given year. In fact, phobias are the most common mental health disorder among women, and second most common among men. If fear has been affecting your life, the good news is that you don’t have to be afraid. EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) can help you conquer your fear.
What is a phobia?
A phobia is an excessive or irrational fear in response to an object or situation. Symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Feeling of panic
Increased heart rate
Persistent avoidance of the feared object or situation
Most people deal with phobias with avoidance. This may be ok for a while, until it negatively affects your life and stops you from doing something important to you. Then it may be time to get help so you won't be limited by fear.
So, what are most people afraid of?
Fear of flying
Nearly 1/3 of Americans have some fear of flying. Many are able to cope with their anxiety through distraction or medication, but some avoid flying altogether. People often come to counseling for a fear of flying when it becomes important in their life to overcome. This may be for work, to be able to attend an important family event, or to go on a dream vacation.
Fear of dogs
As many as 36% of people who go to counseling for a phobia have a fear of dogs. This phobia is often caused by a dog bite or dog attack. The attack may have happened long ago, even as a child, but the fear doesn’t go away. Because dogs are so prevalent in our society, this fear can have a big effect on your life. You may feel like you can’t go to the park, go to friends’ homes, walk down a certain street, or attend events where dogs might be present.
Fear of driving
Like a fear of dogs, a fear of driving may be related to an experience such as a car accident. The fear may start in particular situations such as driving at night or driving on the freeway. People often come to counseling when a fear of driving starts to interfere with important activities and they don't want to feel afraid anymore.
A medical phobia often includes fear of needles and injection, but may generalize to other triggers such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, getting blood pressure taken, or going to the dentist. People may come to counseling when it becomes important to see a doctor or dentist to have an important medical procedure.
Social phobia or social anxiety is a fear of social situations due to a fear of being judged. Social phobia may often start in adolescence and continue to worsen if not treated. People may begin to feel isolated and guilty about avoiding friends, family, and social events.
Fear of public speaking
Fear of public speaking is a specific type of social phobia related to performance anxiety. Typically, someone comes in for counseling for this fear when it is required for their job.
Fear of germs
Fear of germs, dirt, and contamination (sometimes called "germaphobia") can often lead to excessive cleaning , hand-washing or other rituals. These may turn into obsessive-compulsive disorder when attempts to manage anxiety turn into a vicious cycle.
How EMDR can help conquer your fears
I use EMDR therapy to help people overcome the phobias above. We go back to where the phobia began, and teach your brain that the object or situation is no longer dangerous, and that you can cope with it. This way we can curb the automatic reaction your body has every time you think about the fear. During EMDR you focus on events that contributed to the fear. The therapist helps you connect the emotional part of your brain that feels afraid (the limbic system), with the logical part of your brain that knows you’re safe and can handle it (the prefrontal cortex). We work through events in the following order:
The first time you remember feeling afraid of the object or situation
The worst time you felt the fear
The most recent time you felt the fear
How you’d like to feel or react instead
Together, we come up with a plan for how you’d like to think/feel/act when you come into contact with the object or situation in the future. Finally, we make a plan for practicing in real life, taking small steps if necessary, one at a time. Contact me today so we can start a plan for you to conquer your fears and live your life to the fullest.