Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for Specific Phobias
At the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley in Saratoga/San Jose, we offer cognitive behavior therapy for specific phobias. Our approach is practical, goal-oriented, compassionate, and scientifically-based while focusing on your individual needs. If you think you may have a phobia you can learn more about our treatment approach for phobias below.
What is a Specific Phobia?
A specific phobia is an intense, irrational fear when you face a certain situation, activity, or object that interferes with your everyday life or functioning at work or school. While many people have fears, a phobia is long-lasting, causes intense physical and psychological reactions, and can affect your ability to function normally at work, school, home or in social settings. Phobias can be grouped into three broad categories:
- Agoraphobia – a fear of intense anxiety or of having a panic attack in public places where getting help or escape might be difficult, resulting in avoidance of specific public places.
- Social Phobia – fear of negative evaluation, embarrassment or humiliation in performance situations where you think others are evaluating you in your personal life or at work. Social phobia can be generalized to many different social situations and people, or it can be specific to a particular activity like public speaking or eating in public.
- Specific Phobias – an intense, irrational fear when you face a certain situation, activity, or object. The most common types of specific phobias are fear of spiders, dogs, driving, airplanes, heights, bridges, needles, doctors, hospitals, blood, vomiting, and elevators. People can develop a specific fear of almost anything. There are literally hundreds of types of phobias.
If you have a specific phobia, you may have uncontrollable anxiety when you’re exposed to the source of your fear, the feeling that you must do everything possible to avoid what you fear and the inability to function normally because of your anxiety. Like with anxiety and panic attacks, the physical symptoms of a phobia may include:
- difficulty breathing
- racing or pounding heart
- chest pain or tightness
- trembling or shaking
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- stomach upset or diarrhea
- hot or cold flashes
- tingling sensations and sweating
- overwhelming anxiety or panic
- an intense need to escape
- feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- feeling like you’re going to die or pass out
You may know that you’re overreacting, but feel powerless to control your fear. In some cases, you may experience symptoms by just thinking about what you fear. In children, symptoms may include tantrums, clinging or crying.
Cognitive Behavioral Model of Specific Phobias
The causes of phobias are not completely understood. Some people may recall a specific triggering event when the phobia started, while other people may feel like they’ve always had the phobia. It is possible that phobias are learned because there appears to be a link between one’s own phobias and the phobias of their parents. For example, children may learn phobias by observing a family member’s phobic reaction to an object or a situation — for example, a fear of snakes or spiders. Some phobias, like blood phobia or rodent phobia, may be linked to human evolution. For example, rodents often carry diseases so it may be useful for our survival to avoid rodents while it is helpful to faint if one if at danger of excessive blood loss. In the CBT model of phobias, the cause does not matter and looking for causes is ineffective. For treatment to work, we will focus on what is maintaining your phobia today and gradually expose you to your fears.
Cognitive Behavior Treatment of Specific Phobias
Education: Learn about the CBT model of phobias, common anxiety and panic symptoms, how avoidance and safety behaviors maintain phobias, and the elements of phobia treatment.
Self-Monitoring: Track the details of your phobic episodes (triggers, thoughts/beliefs, behavioral responses, and frequency, intensity, duration of anxiety, worry, panic) to identify your patterns and guide the treatment plan.
Cognitive Strategies: Identify your current self-talk and more helpful ways to respond to your phobic worries and fears.
Behavioral Strategies: Learn how to gradually face your phobia through exposure therapy. This may include imaginal exposure, followed by exposure to objects that aren’t real (drawings, photos, plastic figures) and, eventually, exposure to real objects. Your therapist will generally start exposures in the office and may accompany you to places where live exposures can be conducted, if needed.
How to Get Help for Your Phobia
The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers counseling and therapy for specific phobias. We are located in Saratoga on the border of San Jose and Saratoga just 1/2 mile from Highway 85. With our convenient location near highway 85, we serve the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Saratoga, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Cupertino and Campbell, CA. Contact us at (408) 384-8404 for more information on how we can help you overcome your phobia.