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Controlling phobias through mindfulness

Controlling phobias through mindfulness

A phobia is defined as an irrational fear of specific situations
Representational image | Shutterstock

Phobias are defined as an intense and irrational fear of certain objects or situations. While there are several different kinds of phobias, they all stem from the same place – the primal human reaction of ‘fight or flight’. 

Ranging from a fear of heights – acrophobia, to a fear of closed spaces – claustrophobia, these fears may seem illogical to people who do not have them, but they can be debilitating to the afflicted person. 

As is with the case of agoraphobia or the fear of large crowds and open spaces, people who suffer from this don’t just avoid large gatherings, but they tend to shut themselves in and don’t interact with other people

Ways to overcome mild phobias

Improve your lifestyle 

The first and the best way to deal with a phobia is to change your lifestyle. Simple changes such as getting regular and adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, reducing or completely avoiding caffeine and other stimulants can help combat phobias. 

Join a self-help group 

Being part of a self-help group and interacting with other people who also suffer such fears can help you to deal with your own. Listen to those who have had to face a fear and how they have overcome it. 

Learn to relax 

Employing exercises that help control and regulate your breathing is a wonderful way to fight a phobia and the anxiety caused by it. 


Imagine yourself facing the phobia head-on and successfully moving past it. Alternatively, visualise a place of innate calm, re-live a happy memory or imagine yourself in a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Half the battle is won by combining efficient, deep breathing with visualisation. This technique has proved successful in combatting many common phobias. 

You are not alone 

If you are afraid of getting into a closed space or an elevator for instance, look at the evidence. Imagine yourself talking to a friend who suffers from the same fears that you do. What would you say to a person who suffers from a similar fear? 

The worst and the best 

Imagine a worst-case scenario. For example, someone who is averse to the idea of public speaking can get the phobia triggered when facing a crowd. Well before or outside such a scenario, such people can in a way ‘rehearse’– or imagine themselves – being within the event of their greatest fear. This may develop in them a sort of familiarity with it as well as soften the fear. Chase your fear and it goes away without it chasing you back. 

The incentive 

Rewarding oneself for facing a deep-rooted fear is another effective tool. Every time you overcome the fear, indulge yourself in something that you love – a favourite dish, a fancy gadget or an outfit. The incentive at the end of the battle could drive out the fear. 

Virtual reality 

Leveraging virtual reality for behavioural therapy of acrophobia has been around for two decades. Therapists use computer-generated graded exposure to fear-causing scenes to help a few people afflicted by phobias. 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an eight-phase course of treatment. It employs a three-part process that focusses on the memories underlying the problems an individual faces. And those that must be specifically addressed to bring the client back to a robust state of psychological health. Used primarily for treating cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it has been shown to be very effective in combating many common phobias. 

Narrative therapy 

Research has shown that narrative therapy has successfully brought down social phobia among high school students. Rather than defining people as this or that, as depressive, insomniac, anorexic or such, narrative therapy views each person as unique histories. As histories, people give meaning to the events that happen to them.

However, for people suffering from acute levels of phobia, medical intervention is highly advised. Alternatively, exposure therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy are also advised.

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