The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 10% of adults suffer from social phobias. Treating them requires a safe, spiritual setting and an environment like that of Northbound Treatment Services. To overcome a phobia, one must first understand the origin of the anxiety and how it affects the body and mind. The therapeutic process at Northbound aims to help clients liberate themselves from fear and normalize their feelings. Since phobias often co-occur with addiction, treatment at Northbound takes a comprehensive approach to treating both the primary substance abuse and the secondary, or co-occurring, phobia.
Some common phobias and symptoms of phobias:
- Acrophobia: The fear of heights. In addition to avoiding high places, this fear can cause a great deal of anxiety.
- Agoraphobia: The fear of being in a crowd or an open space; such situations can easily trigger an anxiety attack.
- Social Phobias: The fear of social situations. The severity of social phobias is often such that people avoid any of the events, places, or people that could possible cause an anxiety attack.
- Pteromerhanophobia: The fear of flying. One of the classic treatment methods is exposure therapy, where the client is gradually exposed to flying.
- Mysophobia: The fear of germs or dirt. This phobia can be related to obsessive compulsive disorder.
Clients don’t begin behavioral therapy unless the majority of panic-attack symptoms are being managed. Clinical management usually, in cooperation with a psychiatrist, involves the class of drugs typically called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Other “antidepressants” and some anti-seizure drugs are typically prescribed by the client’s psychiatrist for more severe cases. Medication is most helpful when an individual with the phobia is delusional or cannot respond to logic. Otherwise, Northbound always works with psychiatrists to seek the treatment path with the least medication possible.
Our professional clinical staff members are aware of all of the treatment options available and discuss these at length with the family of the client. Decisions are made with the best interest of the client at heart and take into account personal history, health issues and severity of disorder. These options are incorporated into the clients individualized treatment plan and play an important role in the recovery process.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
At Northbound, we utilize a combination of individual and group therapies. One of the most powerful tools available for social phobia treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT looks at the way we think about and respond to situations and how that affects our phobias. Generally, there is a cognitive distortion which when addressed and worked on can lead to normalized thoughts and responses.
CBT will change behavior and responses to situations where anxiety and fear may have been heightened previously. This will help deal with the panic attacks commonly associated with phobias. Additionally, the staff at Northbound will utilize breathing and meditation techniques to help reduce anxiety. CBT, coupled with a healthy diet and limited use of caffeine and nicotine, can increase the client’s success with managing stress, anxiety and phobias.
The Long Term
As our clients progress through treatment and their moods and feelings stabilize, exposure therapy may be used. Exposure therapy is a type of psychotherapy which gradually exposes the client to the source of their fear. Forcing the client to face their fears while using relaxation techniques and CBT techniques already learned may help to eliminate the phobia. This process is only undertaken when clinically appropriate and in a safe setting.
Treatment for phobias does work, but it takes time. Early intervention and continued maintenance allow people to live with their fear as the symptoms slowly diminish. NTS provides the environment and the tools to start this process.