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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fear and Phobia Reduction

9:30 PM Posted by Skyler Schuyler , , ,

Fear and phobias are experienced daily. Several studies have shown that the most common fears are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) and acrophobia (fear of heights). While many of us can relate to these top fears, there are hundreds more. Phobias such as aerophobia (fear of flying), astraphobia (fear of thunder/lightening) and agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded spaces) are only a few that people experience based on circumstances. For instance, its does not rain every day and most individuals do not fly daily. Reviewing techniques to reduce fear’s impact, I found a few mnemonics (memory aids) that may be helpful.

The F-E-A-R System used by Dr. Pamela Garcy stands for Focus, Expose, Approach and Rehearse. This acronym first addresses when you experience a state of fear, an individual in distress needs to Focus rather than freak out. Mindfulness skills such as meditation, body scanning and mindful movement allow people to stay in the present. Here-and-now techniques have been shown to be successful with reducing anxiety caused by fear. Exposing yourself to a certain fear, at appropriate times, can help limit the desire to escape from it all. Time is a sensitive for everyone; rushing your exposure to fears is not suggested. Approaching your fear allows you to deal with the phobia rather than avoiding it. Research suggests that Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) can be helpful with tolerance and level of comfort. Small steps towards reducing fears add up and tackle the bigger picture at hand. Rehearsal of behavioral skills and fear reduction techniques are needed until the fear no longer exists. Just like a seasoned athlete or musician, it takes practice to learn and continue to fine tune skills.

The second acronym examined is the LMNOP Cycle. Former infantry Marine veteran, Akshay Nanavati, created this memory aid to help others master their own fears as he once did. First, you need to Label the emotion you experienced. Research has shown that just labeling an emotion reduces amygdala activity (part of your brain that processes fear) and increases activity in your prefrontal cortex (part of your brain that is associated with processing emotions). The Meaning of emotions tied to an event can greatly impact a state of fear. Even when you are not experiencing a fear directly, if an emotion is connected with an experience, this connection may can create undesirable consequences. Remind yourself that it’s NOT you, it’s your brain stuck in an old pattern. Sometimes we respond unconsciously based on a memory. Opting for a new meaning associated with an emotion may be challenging to adjust to, but the hope is that you will eventually change undesired behaviors and patterns. Finally, reducing fear requires Purpose and Preemptive Strikes. Research has shown that preemptive strikes such as writing down what AND how you will reduce undesired patterns can help prepare you for future obstacles. You have to train and practice before exposure to phobias occurs in order to reduce unpleasant experiences. 

Taking a closer look at fears and phobias, we know that its effects can paralyze and even destroy an individual’s ability to rationally process the experience at hand. Using quick memory aids such as these acronyms may help limit the impact of your fear. However, individuals whose fears or phobias negatively impact their work or home life often may consider additional assistance through support groups, individual therapy and even hypnotherapy. Whether it’s a quick reminder using memory aids or processing your fears with someone, finding what works best for you is extremely important. Remember: personalities are unique and different which means fear reduction techniques will look different for everyone.