Phobia Articles

Do Your Fears Hold You Back? 3 Simple Strategies to Ease Fear

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Do Your Fears Hold You Back? 3 Simple Strategies to Ease FearAre you paralyzed at the thought of public speaking? Shaky in meetings with your boss? Find yourself tongue-tied in social situations?

Fear can occur in any number of situations.  It can be both effective — for instance, when it compels us to run from a burning building — and a blockade that can keep us from living our lives fully.

In a recent article in GQ Magazine, behavioral neuroscientist Mona Lisa Shultz, PhD, describes illogical fear — involving that which does not threaten our lives or well-being — as a “corrupted file that you downloaded by accident that keeps coming up.”

How Kathryn Tristan Overcame Her Anxiety – And You Can Too!

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

How Kathryn Tristan Overcame Her Anxiety - And You Can Too!Research scientist and author Kathryn Tristan was unable to fly or leave her hometown for over 20 years.

But after working from the inside out, as she puts it, Tristan was able to move past her overwhelming anxiety and panic. Through the use of specific techniques, she’s been able to quell them and lead a fulfilling life.

Below, Tristan, who’s also author of the forthcoming book Why Worry? Stop Coping and Start Living (available December 4, 2012), reveals the four strategies that have helped her overcome anxiety and worry.

The Fear of Flying Mindset

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The Fear of Flying MindsetIn my fear of flying program, Fear of Flying?… Not Anymore!™, I address the key psychological factors that contribute to this phobia (which I’ve also discussed in two other articles here: Why Do We Fear Flying?, and Fear of Flying — How to Overcome).

One focus is on the concept of “normalization.” Our brains can be trained, through various exercises created for this process, to understand that flying is a normal, routine activity. Our brains can normalize routine situations, even if these routine situations involve risk.

For example, we likely don’t ruminate over the possibility of slipping every time we shower because our brains have become trained to expect that we will safely take our showers, based on many years of successfully completing this task.

But since most of us only experience flying on an occasional basis, if at all, our brains automatically go on alert when we think of flying.

Whereas showers are routine, flying is not.

How to Decode Your Anxiety & Worry — And Diminish Both

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

How to Decode Your Anxiety & Worry -- And Diminish BothSometimes anxiety and worry can seem to spring out of nowhere. Before you know it, you’re upset and your brain is buzzing with bothersome thoughts.

But your anxiety isn’t that random. “Your anxiety is actually a process,” writes Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, in her book Women Who Worry Too Much: How to Stop Worry & Anxiety from Ruining Relationships, Work & Fun. “It’s made up of a series of thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors.”

The key to better understand your anxiety and worry is to examine all these components individually. Once you know how your anxiety and worry manifest, you can work on reducing them.

Touchless Soap: Marketing To Your Fear of Germs

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Touchless Soap: Marketing To Your Fear of Germs
I’m not sure when the scale tipped in the other direction, but there is a whole generation of children growing up who’ve been made fearful of the potential threat of germs by well-meaning but over-protective parents.

Germs are indeed potentially harmful to our health. But so is being driven around in a car to soccer or dance practice. And while most germs won’t kill you, many automobile accidents will.

Because germs are everywhere, in virtually every environment you live or work in, it’s silly to believe you can somehow “escape” them (short of living in a clean room). The key is to take reasonable measures to help protect yourself from germs — but not to give into some irrational fear of them.

That’s why touchless soap dispensers are just plain silly and have far more to do with marketing to our irrational fear of germs than doing much of anything to actually help us wash our hands better.

Why We Fear Flying: Part 2

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Why We Fear Flying: Part 2The previous post discussed what’s behind a fear of flying: In order to fly comfortably, we need to be able to develop awareness and process of underlying emotions, soothe emotional and physical symptoms triggered by fear, and resolve the perceived threats that drive the fear.

When not addressed, these components feed off of one another, and can make our flight experience cognitively, physically, and emotionally quite uncomfortable. In essence, this is the fear of flying.

Fear of Flying?… Not Anymore! is a program I designed to directly address these areas of cognitive, emotional, and physiological dysregulation during flying. In addition to my work as a therapist, I have a background in and an ongoing study of aviation, including flying airline and general airplane simulators on a regular basis. This knowledge of aviation enables the combination of tools from both the therapeutic and aviation worlds to resolve people’s fear of flying.

The program utilizes a variety of therapy techniques integrated with passenger flying education. Its goal is to build situational control and mastery over the complete passenger flying experience. Some people have even found the program makes flying enjoyable, even after decades of not getting on a plane.

Why We Fear Flying: Part 1

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Why We Fear Flying: Part 1Fear of flying — also known as aviaphobia — is an increasingly common problem in today’s world. I have treated people who previously avoided flying at all costs, and others who would fly, but only while enduring significant fear, discomfort, anxiety, and nervousness in order to do so.

But what is it about the thought of airplanes that gets us so riddled with fear? Though accidents do happen, they are exceedingly rare, and when in-flight problems occur, the planes usually end up landing safely with no injuries. Flying is actually known to be the safest mode of transportation, yet it’s feared as if surviving a flight is pure luck.

How do you know if you have a fear of flying?

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Is Anyone Normal Today?Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

Conquering Performance Anxiety: A Primer for All Phobias

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Conquering Performance Anxiety: A Primer for All PhobiasPublic speaking is the king of phobias. That’s according to Taylor Clark, author of the insightful book, Nerve. He writes:

According to a 2001 poll, more than 40 percent of Americans confess to a dread of appearing before spectators. (In some surveys, fear of public speaking even outranks fear of death, a fact that inspired Jerry Seinfeld’s famous observation that at a funeral, this means the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.)

To get to the solution of this phobia — which can help us with all our other phobias — Clark tells the story of cellist Zoe Keating. Today her music is featured everywhere from National Public Radio to film scores to European ballets. Clark attended one of her performances and comments, “Keating seemed entirely oblivious to the hundreds of eyes watching her. She played as though she were in the midst of a dream, eyes closed, swaying languidly with her cello, utterly immersed in her performance.”

But it was a long way getting there.

Sleep Tight: 7 Travel Tips for Bedbug Phobia

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Sleep Tight: 7 Travel Tips for Bedbug Phobia“I don’t have bedbugs, Kenneth. I went to Princeton.”
~ Jack Donaghy, Character on NBC’s show “30 Rock”

You probably have heard on the news about the problem with bedbugs in hotels. Nasty little things. They come out at night and suck your blood while you sleep.

I like vampire stories as much as the next guy, but when it comes to my blood I am very possessive. I don’t want to share it with a bug. I assume you feel the same.

You can learn more than you’d ever want to know about these creatures at the government’s CDC website here, but suffice to say that it is worth an ounce of prevention to cope with them beforehand, particularly this holiday travel season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency have issued a joint statement on bedbugs, including emotional reactions to them: “Bedbugs may also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.”

Recent Comments
  • John M. Grohol, Psy.D.: We criticize unethical practices here all the time. Sometimes our choice of language is...
  • L: I’m curious about why the comments about how incongruous it is to find the statement “you are an...
  • Tru Le: The truth is, when you are “in nature” (inside the matrix), pain is certain and suffering is...
  • carla: Some good and some trite and some wrong advice. A victim can be completely innocent and not needing to face...
  • Alexis: I am so glad I finally looked more into this. I started having panic attacks at the end of this past July due...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code