Supporting a Loved One With a Severe Phobia

Supporting a Loved One With a Severe Phobia

Sometimes it can be challenging to understand why someone is afraid of something that seems normal to you. However, these severe phobias can be debilitating and require professional treatment and full support. If a loved one is struggling with a specific phobia, there are ways for you to provide help without pushing them too far. Learning about their phobia and demonstrating that you’re understanding are just a few ways you can help a loved one with a severe phobia.

Learn About Severe Phobias and Empathize

If you don’t have a phobia, it can be difficult to comprehend what your loved one is going through. Researching phobias and how they affect people’s daily lives can give you better insight into the reality of their fear. Additionally, you can ask them how their phobia started, how it affects them, and what they wish others would know to not only learn more about this issue but also about your loved one’s personal struggle. 

You’ll likely learn that this is more than just a slight fear but a serious mental health issue that deserves proper attention. According to Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, having a phobia is the most common psychiatric disorder and more common than depression and alcohol use disorder (AUD). This research also revealed that the start or onset of these phobias often begins in childhood or adolescence. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of people struggling with a severe phobia ever receive treatment. 

Find Out What Helps

We can’t read minds. Ask your loved one what specifically can help them feel better whenever they begin to feel anxious. Everyone has their own unique response to a trigger. Understanding what exactly helps bring relief can not only ease their fears but also prevent anxiety or panic attacks.

Sometimes simply being there for them to talk through their thought process can be a stronger source of support than you imagine. Some things that might help can include:

  • Assess a situation before they encounter it to avoid triggering a phobia
  • Remove them from a situation that features a phobia
  • Talk them through breathing exercises
  • Comfort them when they feel overwhelmed

Never Force them to Face Their Severe Phobia

While you don’t want a loved one to avoid various experiences or scenarios due to their severe phobia, you should never force them if they’re not ready. Not only will this not help them overcome this phobia, but it will also cause them to lose their trust in you as a support system. Patience is key, and you don’t want to rush them in the process of recovery.

Instead, you can encourage them to seek professional help from a mental health expert. A therapist who is knowledgeable about treating their specific type of phobia will help your loved one discover crucial methods for overcoming it. You can help them search for potential therapists and accompany them to their appointments to reduce any nervousness.

Be a Safe Space for Them

When you do these supportive actions, your loved one can trust that you are a safe space for them. They will be able to more easily come to you with their thoughts, emotions, and struggles. When you show that you’re there for them, you can help start or continue the conversation on receiving treatment for their severe phobia and what goals they may have. 

Always talk with them about what they would need in terms of support. Everyone is different, and what is needed to help them feel soothed and comforted will be just as unique. Never assume what will help them. Having an open and honest conversation with your loved one can allow you to understand what works best for them.

Finding the Right Severe Phobia Treatment

At Avalon Malibu, we offer phobia-focused treatment from expert mental health professionals who can help your loved one overcome their fear. Research has shown that no single phobia treatment works for all individuals. For example, virtual reality therapy has been shown to work best with height phobia, while cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is more successful in treating claustrophobia and blood-injury phobia.

Our compassionate staff can create a customized treatment plan to fit your loved one’s specific phobia and distinctive needs. We offer group and individual therapy so they can receive both one-on-one guidance and also find support from those going through a similar experience. 

As for severe phobia treatment, we also offer different types of exposure therapy, such as flooding. Flooding is when an individual faces their phobia for a certain amount of time without leaving the situation. While this treatment is extremely effective, it can be difficult for someone to try.

That’s why we also use a more beginner-friendly treatment called counter-conditioning. Counter-conditioning is when an individual learns to acquire a new response to their severe phobia. While they initially feel anxiety when faced with their fear, they can use relaxation techniques to alter their response over time.

Overcoming a phobia can seem almost impossible. However, your loved one can find tailored treatment where they can learn to conquer their anxieties and live a fear-free life. At Avalon Malibu, we offer various forms of treatment, including residential and intensive outpatient. Residential treatment will allow your loved one to be in a healing environment with round-the-clock professional care. Meanwhile, our intensive outpatient program is best for those who wish to stay in their home while receiving complete care at our facility during the day. We can help you and your loved one discover which treatment program is right for them. To learn more about our phobia treatment strategies, call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992.

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