Overcoming Fear & Phobias

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Fear is very useful. It keeps us safe and away from danger. Unfortunately, our fears & phobias can sometimes work against us. Many of us have an irrational fear (phobia) of an animal or situation that is not particularly dangerous.

There’s no need to do anything about the fear if it doesn’t get in the way of life. However, sometimes our fears can stop us doing things we want to do.

For example, a fear of heights might stop us taking that job in a high-rise building. Whereas a fear of birds might stop us going outside. If the fear is causing us problems then we might want to overcome our fears.

We become afraid of things because we avoid going near them and that means we never have the opportunity to find out it’s safe. So the best way of overcoming our fears is to do the thing that we are afraid of.

Of course, it’s very difficult to do the thing that we are afraid of. To make it easier to face our fears we can break the process down into much smaller and more manageable steps. We may feel afraid at first but the longer we stay in the situation that we fear the more our fear will reduce.

It may be easier to understand this idea with an example:

Example 1: Overcoming a fear of heights

In this example, imagine we have a fear of heights. In order to overcome the fear we need to face the fear in small steps. Each step will make us feel afraid but if we wait our fear will come down and then we will be ready to move onto the next step.

  1. Imagine being somewhere up high.
  2. Look at a photograph of someone in a high place.
  3. Imagine looking down from somewhere high.
  4. Look at a photograph of the view looking down from somewhere high.
  5. Look at a video of someone looking down from somewhere high.
  6. Find a high place but stay far from the edge.
  7. Move closer to the edge.
  8. Look down over the edge.
  9. Repeat the steps above at higher and higher places.

The technical term for this approach is ‘Graduated Exposure’ or ‘Exposure Therapy’ or ‘Systematic Desensitisation’.

Example 2: Overcoming a fear of bees

The video below walks through how to do Exposure Therapy using the presenters phobia of bees as an example.

Troubleshooting: what if you still feel a lot of fear?

If our fear does not come down once we are in a feared situation then it’s probably because we are doing something that makes us feel as if we are safe. For example, we may be praying, checking things or holding onto something or someone. Unfortunately, this prevents us from realising that the situation is completely safe. If we stop the ‘safety behaviours’ and just do the thing we are afraid of our fear will decrease.

If we think we are drinking too much or taking too many drugs it might help to think about what the underlying problems are. If we can identify these problems and work on them then we may find it easier to reduce our use of drugs and alcohol. The tougher but quicker approach might be to stop taking drugs and alcohol so that we have the opportunity to discover that we can cope in other ways.


Meet with one of our Psychologists about fears & phobias

It can sometimes be difficult to make these changes on your own.

If you would like advice and guidance that is specific to your situation you can meet with one of our psychologists.

For more information about our psychologists click here.


Any questions or comments about fears & phobias?

Did you find this article helpful? If you have any questions on fears or phobias please write them in comments section at the bottom of this page and we’ll reply to you as soon as possible.

We would also be happy to receive any comments or opinions you may have on this article.


Further Information on fears & phobias …

Further Information on this Topic

Listed below are links to other websites and resources that we have found useful for helping with fear & phobias.

If you know of any other websites or resources please let us know in the comments section below so that we can add them to the list.

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Guide to Phobias by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS)

This page on the UK’s National Health Service website explains why you may develop a fear (phobia) and explains how to overcome it.


Guide to Phobias by Mind (UK Charity)

Information from the UK Charity, Mind, on how to deal with phobias (fears).


How to treat Phobias by Beyond Blue (Australian Charity)

Information from a charity linked to the Australian government on how to treat phobias or help others with them.


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