Phobias might seem silly when you’re teasing your arachnophobic friend about the spider on the ceiling but they can be incredibly debilitating.

Overcoming an extreme fear is not always straight forward.

For mental health awareness week, we’re answering Google’s most searched for mental health questions – including how to overcome a phobia.

What is a phobia?

Phobias are often related to anxiety disorders but are specifically the fear around a situation or object, when it is not actually a danger.

Examples include claustrophobia (a fear of enclosed spaces), arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) and agoraphobia (the fear of going outside).

It can triggered by thinking or talking about something, not just experiencing that thing.

If the fear is out of proportion to the danger, it lasts for more than six months and it has an impact on your day to day life, it is more than just a fear – it is classed as a phobia.

How can you overcome it?

Overcoming a phobia and reducing the impact it has is not easy but it can be done.

Mental health charity Mind recommends a few key things:

Talk about it

Find someone you trust who will listen to you. When you know that your fear is not proportional to the danger, it can feel like you are being silly but talking it through with someone can help you start to identify that.

Use relaxation techniques

These can help you manage the anxiety around your phobia. Methods include breathing control, stretching and meditation.

If your phobia causes panic attacks, you can learn how to manage these. You need to focus on your breathing and your senses. You can try grounding techniques to help you control the panic.

Face your fears

Avoiding the thing you are scared off only makes it get worse. Try to face your fears when you can, with lots of help and support. Taking it in small steps can help as repeated experiences of facing your dear can help you gain some control over your phobia.

Look at the evidence

If there is something in particular that you are scared about happening, addressing the realistic possibility of something bad happening can help you realise how your fear outweighs the danger.

Look at courses to help your specific phobia

There are courses to help you address and work through specific fears. Some airports and airlines, for example, run courses to help people overcome their fear of flying using simulators.

Zoos also run courses for fears of spiders or snakes. Take a look online to see if there is a course nearby that is suitable for you.

Speak to your doctor

If your phobia is having a lasting impact on your life, speak to your GP about getting help so you can understand why your fears are there and how to work through them with a counsellor. Hypnotherapy is also used to treat some phobias.

If your fear is stopping you from leaving the house, speak to your doctor about home visits or telephone assessments.

Mental Health questions answered

Google’s most-asked mental health questions in 2019 so far:

According to Google, the most frequently asked ‘how to’ questions relating to mental health this year so far are:

1. How to relieve stress
2. How to help anxiety
3. How to stop worrying
4. How to stop a panic attack
5. How to deal with stress
6. How to cope with depression
7. How to know if you have anxiety
8. How to know if you have depression
9. How to help someone with PTSD
10. How to overcome social anxiety
11. How to get help for depression
12. How to treat OCD
13. How to help a depressed friend
14. How to overcome a phobia
15. How to treat PTSD

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