Do you have a fear of spiders or mice? Is your fear so horrifying that you have begun avoiding places where you might encounter one of these pests? Do you secretly admit that your fear is out of proportion with the risk posed but aren’t able to control how you react? If so, you may have a specific phobia.
According to the DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia is the following:
- Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation.
- The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.
- The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the sociocultural context.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
About 7%-9% of adults experience a specific phobia in a year and 75% of individuals have more than one phobia. What is even more concerning is that phobias usually develop in early childhood with the age of onset occurring before the age of 10. This means that most adults who experience a phobia have been wrestling with this difficulty for many years, impairing them either socially, occupationally, or relationally. It also indicates that children with phobias may benefit from earlier treatment.
Hidden Stream Counseling offers exposure therapy for those individuals with specific phobia. The premise of exposure therapy is that those with a phobia need to expose themselves to the feared object until it is no longer fearful. Therapy focuses on creating a hierarchy of fears with clients and then gradually exposing them to the least fearful item either in their imagination or in reality. They gradually confront and master each fear until they have achieved their goals. Exposure therapy takes a great deal of courage and a willingness to confront your fears.
If you are ready to face your phobias in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, you may benefit from the extra support and guidance a therapist brings.
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