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Treating Phobias When Self-Help Doesn’t Work

Dr. Fariha Naz

2 min read

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Most phobias never require treatment due to their slim chances of appearing before the sufferer, while others are easily treatable through gradual desensitization and self-taught coping techniques.

However, when a phobia is extremely intense and disruptive, and is difficult to overcome personally, medical assistance may be required. Book a psychiatrist online in Pakistan if your condition gets alarming.

Ranging from therapy to medication, here are some of the most effective phobia treatments:


Also known as ‘Talk Therapy’, Psychotherapy is the first line medical treatment for most mental conditions and involves sorting out one’s phobic emotions and thoughts with the assistance of a certified psychotherapist.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This involves changing one’s behavior and thinking patterns related to a phobia and developing practical coping mechanisms. The main goal of CBT is to instill a sense of confidence and mastering one’s phobic emotions and symptoms instead of being controlled by them.

Computerized CBT using certain free online software programs is an effective self-treatment tool. However, it is not recommended for adults.

  • Exposure Therapy/Desensitization:A major component of phobia self-treatment*, the goal of desensitization is to physically overcome a phobia through gradual exposure to feared situations or objects; usually starting from thinking about one’s phobia to finally coming in contact with it. Medical desensitization has the benefit of a trained professional’s assistance who can help organize the process and progress at a suitable pace.
  • Mass Exposure: For added support, therapists can organize group exposure sessions comprised of people with similar phobias. Each session lasts for about 2-3 hours where the participants are faced with their fears until the anxiety is resolved or reduced.


Some people may opt for biofeedback sessions, which involve visually observing one’s stress response (e.g. heart rate, muscle activity, breathing rate) on a monitor through electrodes attached to the skin. This helps patients understand their physical state during a ‘fear attack’, which prompts them to learn relaxing methods like deep breathing to better control their bodily responses.

3-For Blood/Injury Phobia:

People suffering from a fear of blood and injury, such as severe anxiety and fainting on seeing a few drops of blood following an injection require additional treatment alongside ongoing desensitization.

Since the fainting results from a rapid switch between a fight-or- flight response and reduced heart rate and hypotension, patients are trained to tense their abdomen, buttock, and leg muscles upon noticing the onset of fainting symptoms to minimize the flight-or-flight response.


To treat severe anxiety and other physical symptoms of a phobic attack, some patients may be prescribed the following medications either temporarily or for situational use:

  • Antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin (the mood-boosting hormone) levels for symptom relief. However, they may initially worsen anxiety, cause sexual issues, and are highly addictive. Other side-effects include nausea, headaches, insomnia, and gastric issues.

Other commonly prescribed antidepressants include:

Moclobemide, a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) for social phobia treatment. However, it can react with certain foods. Other side-effects include insomnia, dizziness, gastric problems, headaches, and agitation.

Clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant whose side-effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, blurred vision, shaking, palpitations, constipation, and difficulty urinating.

  • Beta-Blockers:

    Used for cardiovascular and hypertension treatment at high doses, low-dose beta-blockers also help reduce physical phobic symptoms like shaking voice and limbs and fast heart rate by countering adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone). While side-effects include gastric issues, insomnia, nightmares, fatigue, and cold fingers, beta-blockers are not addictive.

  • Tranquilizers:

    Recommended only for short-term use (not exceeding 4 weeks) at the lowest possible dosage due to their addictive nature, minor tranquilizers like Benzodiazepines (valium) are prescribed for severe phobic anxiety like in claustrophobia. However, they are not prescribed for patients with a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

  • Anticonvulsants:

    Primarily used to prevent or reduce epileptic fits, Neurontin and Lyrica may be useful for treating severe social phobia.

Note: Some of the above medications can cause anxiety at higher doses of if stopped suddenly They should therefore be increased gradually from low doses and discontinued slowly.

Phobias don’t have to be life-altering. Do not hesitate to seek out the necessary help if your phobia interferes with your life and/or if self-treatment doesn’t work. You can also book an appointment with a top Psychiatrist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your mental health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Fariha Naz - Author Dr. Fariha Naz is a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Diabetes Counsellor, Counselor and Addiction Specialist. She has an MS (Clinical & Counseling Psychology), Psyche D From Argosy University, Clinical Psychology and Counselling from Beacon House National University and Addiction specialization from Boston University degree along with an experience of 5 years. She is also a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).
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