Treatment, Medications and Therapy for Phobias

Medications

> Beta blockers. These medications work by blocking the stimulating effect of epinephrine (adrenaline). They block some of the peripheral signs of adrenaline’s stimulation and anxiety, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, pounding of the heart, and shaking voice and limbs. These can be very effective for people who have stage fright but must give a presentation before other people. However, not all beta blockers are effective for this purpose, and they’re only available by prescription, so check with your doctor.

> Antidepressants. also can reduce anxiety. The most commonly used antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications act on the chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter in your brain that’s believed to influence mood.

> Sedatives. Medications help you relax by reducing the amount of anxiety that you feel. Sedatives need to be used with caution because they can be addictive. It’s generally safe to use low doses of sedatives infrequently or only for short periods. However, sedatives should be avoided if you have a previous history of abusing alcohol or other drugs.

> Behavior therapy

Exposure therapy focuses on changing your response to the feared object or situation. Gradual, repeated exposure to the cause of your phobia may help you learn to conquer your fear. For example, if you’re afraid of flying, your therapy may progress from having you think about flying to looking at pictures of airplanes, to going to an airport, to sitting in an airplane, and to finally taking a flight. Some major airlines offer programs to help you adjust to flying. For example, a group of people with the same fear may all sit in an airplane together, but the airplane won’t take off.

> Cognitive behavior therapy
is a more comprehensive form of therapy. It involves you and your therapist learning ways you can view and cope with the feared object or situation differently. You learn alternative beliefs about the feared object or situation and the impact it has on your life. There’s special emphasis on learning to develop a sense of mastery and control of your thoughts and feelings.

> Treatment choices

Simple phobias usually are treated with behavior therapy. Social phobias may be treated with antidepressants or beta blockers, along with behavior therapy.

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