Anthrax, letter bombs, certified mail from lawyers, time-wasting junk mail, important mail for someone that you have to deal with, rejection letters, mudslinging from political candidates, sales on things we still can’t afford, and returned mail for insufficient postage are just part of what is in our psyche about snail mail. But I noticed that you did e-mail us here, which I am very encouraged by, because it means not all forms of mail are troublesome. This is a good sign.
It is hard to know if something specific (a negative piece of mail you specifically received) or something more generic is operating. But it is best to approach this fear as a situation-specific condition. This will give us a way of trying to solve it directly. If that doesn’t work we can go on to something more involved.
I would limit the times you go to the mailbox to twice a week, like a Tuesday or Saturday, and ask a trusted friend or family member to go with you when you pick it up. By having two means of control — when you go and going with another person — it changes the buildup of anxiety about the situation.
Secondly, I would bring a garbage bag with you and as you take mail out of the mailbox throw out the junk mail instantly. This rapid decision-making process also gives you control and helps limit your contact.
Finally, I would sort what is left into “know mail” (like bills) that you know have to be paid and other mail that is important.
With your trusted friend or family member present open the important mail. This provides you with a safety net of another person who can be there if the information you receive is unpleasant. This should also strengthen your bond with the person as it gives you a chance to express your gratitude.
Do this for the next month to break the cycle and see if your fears diminish. If so, experiment with “fading” your helper by having them wait for you while you retrieve the mail. All of these things are ways of helping to desensitize you to the dreaded deed.
If this doesn’t help the fear may be more involved. In this case you should find a therapist (the find help tab at the top of the page will help you locate one in your area.) He or she will certainly help you get to the bottom of it. In therapy we try the easiest solution first. If that doesn’t do it we look for other possible causes and experiment from there.
You asking for help from us was a strong, positive step in the right direction.
Wishing you patience and peace,
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 29, 2010.