Everyone experiences fear from time to time, but when someone has a phobia it usually means much more than just some minor stress or anxiety for that person. Phobias are characterized by extreme, often irrational fears surrounding specific things, places, feelings, or ideas. Really you can have a phobia about just about anything. Phobias typically develop as a response to trauma, often in childhood. Phobias also commonly develop by association. For example, a person who experienced a traumatic incident in a library may develop a phobia towards silence and a person who experienced trauma on a stormy day may develop a phobia towards lighting.
Therapy for phobias typically focuses on unraveling the history that led to the development of a phobia, building coping skills, and gradual exposure to the feared thing. This scares a lot of people away from seeking help for phobias. However, most therapists will start out slow, helping you to build skills before exposing you to anything you fear, and usually people start with the thought of the feared thing and build up from there.
Your therapist will likely construct a fear hierarchy with you and come up with a ranked list of things that illicit the least amount of fear to the most. You’ll start at the bottom of your list and gradually work up to confronting the actual feared thing.
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