Phobia is the word used to describe an intense fear of an object, situation or animal. Most of us are afraid of something despite being aware that, in reality, it actually causes us very little threat. Common fears include insects, heights, closed/small spaces, busy environments, rodents, and needles; although we can develop fears about almost anything. However, for many people this apprehension can be so intense that they live in fear of coming into contact with a certain item. People often go to the extreme lengths of changing their lifestyles to avoid coming into contact with their feared item (e.g. they may take a longer route to work to avoid crossing a bridge). Often, people’s minds go into ‘overdrive’ and they are flooded with negative and frightening thoughts (e.g. “this is extremely dangerous;” “I cannot cope with this”). When a fear is this intense, it is often described as a phobia. When confronted by their phobia, people feel extremely anxious and, as a result, experience some uncomfortable bodily sensations. Sometimes even the thought of a particular item is enough to provoke an anxious response. People often describe being aware that their phobia can cause them very little harm (i.e. a house spider) however still find it very difficult to overcome their fear. To cope with their phobia individuals engage in a range of behaviours such as avoidances and safety seeking behaviours which have a role in maintaining their phobias.

In an assessment session, you will be encouraged to look at your problems and develop goals as well as developing a shared understanding of your problems .A plan will be developed collaboratively with an estimated number of sessions together with a review date, should this be appropriate. Further CBT sessions involve setting an agenda for the sessions, summaries to check understanding and homework tasks to help to facilitate changes. This may involve keeping records of thoughts or activities or it may involve doing things differently to observe the outcomes, developing hierarchies of fears and undertaking exposures to those fears in a graded fashion, dropping their safety seeking behaviours and testing out their predictions. At the end of each session there is an opportunity for feedback and to raise any difficulties.

The NICE guidelines for Anxiety Disorders published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence outline evidence based treatment recommendations. CBT is the suggested approach.

It is important to seek help from your GP or a mental health professional should you experience symptoms to enable you to access the help that you need.

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