Self-help advice for phobias

Each phobia is different and no single self-help programme will work for everyone. You may decide to use your own self-help strategy, or get help from a mental healthcare specialist, such as a psychologist.

A self-help programme could include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • having a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • attending a self-help group
  • using self-exposure therapy (see below) to try to overcome your fear
  • a combination of these

Lifestyle changes

Changing your lifestyle can help reduce the symptoms of a phobia, such as panic attacks. This could include:

  • regular exercise
  • regular meals on a schedule
  • getting enough sleep
  • reducing or avoiding caffeine and other stimulants

Self-exposure therapy

Self-exposure therapy (de-sensitisation) involves gradually increasing the length of time that you are exposed to the object of your phobia.

If you have agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces and public places), you might begin by going outside your house for a very short time, then gradually increasing the length of time you spend outside and the distance you travel from your house. This technique is often effective in allowing someone with a phobia to cope with their anxiety.

Other self-help techniques

Other self-help techniques include:

  • Relaxation techniques: a series of physical exercises that may help you relax and control your breathing.
  • Visualisation: combines relaxation and breathing techniques with mentally visualising how you will successfully deal with a situation that could cause anxiety.
  • Self-help groups: a useful way of meeting others with similar experiences and sharing ways of coping.

FearFighter is a software programme you can access on the internet which is recommended by the Department of Health and may be useful if you are considering self-help for panic disorder and phobia.

Last updated: 25 October 2012

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