More than 19 million Americans have a phobia, with the rates being twice as high for women as for men. Spiders, snakes and heights are the top three phobias, but other common fears include water, dogs, injections, flying and social phobias. Addressing these fears and coping with them in a natural way is important, or they can cause further difficulties in everyday life. Avoiding the things that cause you fear might seem like the easiest option, but in the long term, this will condition the amygdala area of the brain (the fear center) to think that you can’t handle your fears. Instead, gradually facing the things that are causing you fear and anxiety will help you cope in a healthy way.
Create a plan of action
When you are learning to face your fears, it is important to do this gradually, one step at a time. For instance, if someone had a fear of water and drowning, you simply wouldn’t throw them in the swimming pool – this could be extremely traumatic and make the phobia worse. Your plan of action may include assessing the risks of drowning, learning about the risks associated with different water spaces, going for a regular paddle, watching videos about swimming, going for a short boat ride, or even signing up for swimming lessons. Regularly taking one small step at a time can help you to overcome your fear gradually, without any external pressures.
Learn about the thing you fear
Learning about the thing that you fear and evaluating the risks can be a healthy part of coping and overcoming it. For instance, if you are afraid of spiders, it might help to learn about their life cycles, their anatomy, their habitat, and how they have evolved. Understanding the risks is also important – the vast majority of spiders in America are completely harmless. Out of 3,000 species, there are only three that are poisonous. There are, on average, six people a year that die of a spider bite in comparison to 655,000 people that die of heart disease. It is important to remember too that many of the common things that we fear, such as public speaking, have no risk to health at all.
Seek professional help
If you are concerned that your fears or phobias are affecting your everyday life, it is important to seek professional help. Some specific phobias can be debilitating, and conquering fears on your own may not be an option. Therapy sessions can give you strategies to manage your anxiety and techniques for relaxation. Simply talking to someone can also help you to gain a more personal perspective of your fears so you can establish the root of the issue. Seeing a therapist can also help you to accept your fears and find ways to make them impact less on your life.
Facing your fears is important – simply avoiding them can cause more anxiety. You should seek to do this in a healthy way that will help you to move past the fears and live your life without worry.