Phobias and Related Conditions
Phobias – Symptoms and Treatment
The primary distinguishing feature of a phobia is the recurrent, irrational fear of a specific object or situation. Exposure to the feared object or situation results in an immediate and intense level of anxiety, sometimes to the extent of having a panic attack. Despite recognizing that this anxiety is excessive, an individual with a phobia will go to great lengths to avoid exposure to the feared object or situation in order to prevent the emotional distress it causes. This anxiety and its associated avoidance behaviors cause significant emotional distress, and may considerably interfere with daily functioning and interpersonal relationships.
The specific objects or situations feared by individuals with phobias vary widely from person to person. Some examples of common phobias includes fears of:
- spiders (arachnophobia)
- snakes (ophidiophobia)
- heights (acrophobia)
- dogs (cynophobia)
- rats / mice (musophobia)
- needles / injections (trypanophobia)
- thunder / lightning (brontophobia)
- enclosed spaces (claustrophobia)
- vomiting (emetophobia)
- water (hydrophobia)
- dental procedures (dentophobia)
- insects (entomophobia / insectophobia)
- having bad breath (halitophobia)
- darkness (nyctophobia)
- bridges (gephyrophobia)
- blood (hemophobia)
While some do not consider phobias to be true OC Spectrum Disorders, they do have obsessive-compulsive features that are quite similar to OCD. Phobias and OCD are both categorized as anxiety disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Also, phobias and OCD both involve intense, irrational fears and repeated avoidance of anxiety-provoking objects and/or situations. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that 7% of those with OCD also have one or more phobias. In fact, a phobia may sometimes evolve into OCD, or vice-versa. Perhaps the most significant similarity linking phobias and OCD is the cyclical process by which the symptoms of both increase. To learn more about this process, click here.
Treatment of Phobias
Because of these many similarities, the same Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques that are so effective in treating OCD are also employed in the treatment of phobias. The primary CBT technique used in treating phobias is exposure therapy. Another CBT technique that is extremely valuable is called “Cognitive Restructuring”, in which clients learn to challenge the validity of their phobic thoughts.
Additionally, a variant of exposure therapy has been developed that has also been found to be helpful for the treatment of phobias. This method, called imaginal exposure, involves writing short stories based on the client’s phobia. These stories are then used as exposure tools, allowing the client to experience exposure to feared situations that cannot be experienced through traditional exposure (e.g., being attacked by birds, being struck by lightning, drowning). When combined with standard exposure and other CBT techniques such as Cognitive Restructuring, imaginal exposure can greatly reduce the frequency and magnitude of intrusive phobic obsessions, as well as the individual’s sensitivity to the specific object or situation they fear.
One of the most effective CBT developments for the treatment of phobias is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. The primary goal of Mindfulness-Based CBT is to learn to non-judgmentally accept uncomfortable psychological experiences. From a mindfulness perspective, much of our psychological distress is the result of trying to control and eliminate the discomfort of unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. In other words, our discomfort is not the problem – our attempt to control and eliminate our discomfort is the problem. For an individual with a phobia, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to more willingly experience their uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges, without responding with avoidance behaviors, reassurance seeking, and/or mental rituals. To learn more about Mindfulness Based CBT for the treatment of phobias, click here.
Using these CBT tools, clients learn to challenge their phobic thinking, as well as the compulsive and avoidant behaviors they use to cope with their excessive fear. If you would like to learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the treatment of phobias and related anxiety-based conditions, click here.
Individual Therapy for the Treatment of Phobias
The OCD Center of Los Angeles offers individual therapy for the treatment of adults, children, and adolescents with phobias, with a strong emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As part of our treatment program, we also offer the option of home visits for our clients who have difficulty with phobias in or around their residence. We also provide clients the opportunity to have therapy sessions in the field to address specific phobias such as those listed above.
We have 14 therapists on staff, and are open six days a week, including evenings and Saturdays. If you would like to discuss treatment options at the OCD Center of Los Angeles, please call one of our client coordinators at (310) 824-5200 (ext. 4), or click here to email us.
Group Therapy for the Treatment of Phobias
In addition to individual therapy, the OCD Center of Los Angeles also offers six weekly, low-fee, therapy/support groups for adults with OCD, phobias, and related conditions. These groups are led by our professional staff therapists, and use the same treatment protocol as our individual Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy program. To learn more about our weekly groups for adults with OCD, phobias, and related conditions, click here.
Telephone and Online Therapy for the Treatment of Phobias
The OCD Center of Los Angeles also offers webcam based online therapy and telephone therapy to clients around the world suffering with phobias. Telephone and online therapy are cost-effective options for clients who have physical and/or psychological limitations that restrict their ability to come to our office, and for those in remote areas who cannot find specialized phobia treatment close to their home. Telephone and internet therapy have repeatedly been found to be safe and effective in numerous research studies, and have been legal in California since 1997. If you would like to learn more about our telephone and online therapy program for phobias, please click here.
or call us at 310 824-5200
Intensive Treatment for Phobias
We also offer intensive Phobia treatment for adults, adolescents, and children. This program is designed to meet the needs of those for whom standard outpatient Phobia treatment is either unavailable or insufficient. Our intensive outpatient program is ideal for clients from other states or countries who cannot find effective treatment near to their homes, and for those whose symptoms require a more rigorous treatment protocol. To learn more about our intensive outpatient treatment for Phobias, click here.
About the OCD Center of Los Angeles
The OCD Center of Los Angeles is a private outpatient treatment center specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of OCD and related conditions, including phobias. We have 14 therapists on staff, all of whom are either licensed or registered, and all of whom specialize in CBT. We treat adults, adolescents, and children, and offer services six days a week, including evenings and Saturdays.
We have offices at three locations in Southern California:
- Los Angeles – Brentwood
- San Fernando Valley – Woodland Hills
- Orange County – Newport Beach
If you are experiencing a phobia and would like to discuss treatment options at the OCD Center of Los Angeles, please call one of our client coordinators at (310) 824-5200 (ext. 4), or click here to email us.