Facing your phobias – those wild things in your mind

Maybe you are afraid of spiders, or break out in a sweat thinking about going to a dental checkup. But for some people, fears become so severe they cause anxiety and interfere with normal life. photo of big, ugly spider

When a fear affects your life, it is called a phobia, an overwhelming, unreasonable and ongoing fear that leads to avoiding an object or situation. It can be a fear of a specific thing or of a social setting. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), phobias are the most common mental disorders in the United States.

If you have a phobia, you might feel like these wild thoughts in your mind are kind of unreasonable, but you just can’t seem to control your feelings. Just thinking about a certain object or situation can make you anxious causing a high-level of fear that can even change your lifestyle.

Understanding your phobia is the first step to overcoming it. Having a phobia doesn’t mean you’re crazy! This mental health issue is very treatable. You can overcome your anxiety and fear, no matter how out of control it feels right now.

If the wild thoughts in your head are causing any of the following, you might have a phobia:

Physical symptoms:

      • Difficulty breathing
      • Racing heart
      • Chest pain or tightness
      • Trembling or shaking
      • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
      • A churning stomach
      • Hot or cold flashes
      • Sweating

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feeling extreme anxiety or panic
  • Feeling the need to escape
  • Fear of losing control
  • Knowing that you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control fear

If your phobia doesn’t impact your life that much, it’s probably nothing to be worried about. But if you are avoiding objects, activities, or situations that interfere with everyday life it’s time to get help. Get treatment for your phobia if:

  • It causes intense fear, anxiety, and panic
  • You recognize that your fear is overwhelming and unreasonable
  • You avoid certain situations and places
  • You’ve had these feelings for at least six months

When you find that you just can’t settle those wild thoughts in your mind, it might help to talk with a professional therapist. In the meantime, you can also take some steps on your own:

Try not to avoid situations/things that cause fear. Practice staying near these situations as frequently as you can rather than avoiding them completely. Family, friends and your therapist can help with this. Practice the techniques you learn in therapy and work with your therapist to develop a coping plan.

Talk it out. Consider joining a support group where you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat healthy and try to be physically active every day. And don’t forget to celebrate successes as things get better.