How to Cure Phobias & Anxiety

1.

Track your phobias and anxieties in a journal. Write down your fears or anxieties. Describe the situations, events (past, present, and future), and thoughts that cause anxious feelings. List the physical anxiety symptoms that you get (racing heart, sweaty hands, or a lump in the throat) and how you cope with these (distract yourself). Even keep track of your moods and activities on the days that you feel anxious or phobic.

2.

Test your anxious thoughts and beliefs. Often anxiety and phobias cause you to have irrational thoughts like: "people will laugh at me if I talk to them" or "my racing heart will make me collapse." So talk to someone and see if the person laughs. Or jog in place for several minutes and see if you will collapse. If you think that panic can cause you to lose your mind or die, Martin Antony and Randi McCabe, authors of "10 Simple Solutions to Panic," say this will not happen. Challenging your fear-based thoughts and beliefs can take their power away.

3.

List your fears and phobias (even think about situations or things you avoid) very specifically. Then go back and rank them in order of most anxiety provoking to least provoking. Rewrite your list with those items that are most terrifying at the top and those less provoking at the bottom. Decide which fear you want to try to conquer first, and consider how confronting this phobia will make you feel. Write these thoughts down in your journal.

4.

Plan to confront your fears. The authors of "10 Simple Solutions to Panic" suggest setting aside a month or so to deal with your anxieties. Even better is to have a few hours a day to address them. This "exposure therapy" means you will face the fear a bit at a time. You may want to write down positive affirmations in your journal like: " I will face my fear of flying in time to visit my friend in California in three months."

5.

Face your phobias and anxieties systematically (symptoms and situations). Take one phobia from your list and imagine the situation or event in your mind's eye. Live through the anxious feelings (do so with a friend or trusted therapist). If there is a particular symptom you struggle with like fast breathing, recreate it, and let yourself feel the fear. Then gradually face more difficult scenarios (stepping up on the first rung of a ladder for fear of heights). Gradual exposure can "cure" the phobia with time.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you have a phobia that causes you to pass out, try tightening up the muscles of your body and face for a few seconds when you feel the fear and then relax. Tighten and relax several times in a row to prevent fainting. Hypnotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and acupuncture can also help you deal with phobias and anxiety. There are also self-help books, CDs, and DVDs to assist you
  • Know that relapse is possible and likely. Some therapists believe that anxiety is never really "cured." Create a relapse plan so that when a phobia or anxiety resurfaces, you know what to do and will not be surprised by it.
  • When you are being chased or attacked, you experience fear--a normal response to an immediate situation. But being afraid of heights or spiders is a phobia; a more specific fear. Anxiety is worry about something that might happen in the future (giving a presentation). Whereas fear motivates you to run away from the bear or burglar, phobias and anxiety prevent you from doing things. To cure or diminish your phobias and anxiety, you need to address, instead of avoid, them.