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Peter van Veggel, Business Manager

Phobias are the most common anxiety disorders. Although they are among the most treatable anxiety disorders, overcoming a phobia without professional treatment can be challenging. There are a variety of phobia types, including phobias focused on the fear of an animal (e.g., fear of dogs, spiders, or snakes), an element of the natural environment (e.g., fear of heightsor storms), medical practices (e.g., needles, dental or medical procedures), or a variety of other situations (e.g., driving, closed spaces, flying). Regardless of the type of phobia, most individuals’ fear is focused on the idea that some aspect of their feared object or situation will cause them harm. Therefore, one of the key elements of overcoming a phobia is by confronting one’s fear directly.

The most effective way of overcoming a phobia is through exposure-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The first step in treatment is to develop a list of your feared situations, with the most anxiety-provoking ones at the top of the list and the least anxiety-provoking ones at the bottom. This “hierarchy” provides a roadmap that guidesyou through a series of exposure exercises that involve directly confronting the feared situations, starting with the easier items on the list and working up to more difficult ones. As you progress through the list of exposure exercises, you have the opportunity to learn information that disconfirms your fearful beliefs about the object or situation.As a result, the anxiety that you experience when confronted with the feared object or situation reduces over time. With the support of a trained therapist, phobias are highly treatable and can be overcome relatively quickly.