Many people might see their phobia as something they have to live with, but this Mental Health Awareness Week an NHS Trust is reminding people that their phobias may be a treatable mental health issue.
Patients with phobias of things like spiders, needles, flying, vomiting and public speaking are regularly treated by trained therapists working for NHS Sunderland Talking Therapies – a partnership between mental health and learning disability provider Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Sunderland Counselling Service and Washington Mind.
Elizabeth King, Low Intensity Service Lead at NHS Sunderland Talking Therapies, says: “Phobias aren’t always recognised as a real or important issue and people often don’t realise there is help available.
“Some people feel too embarrassed to seek medical advice, particularly if others find it amusing or if they know their fear seems irrational.
“We want people to know that there are treatments available to them and we’re here to help.”
The sooner you seek treatment for a phobia, the shorter treatment is likely to be and accessing support is likely to reduce the risk of it impacting further on someone’s life.
If you have a phobia, the idea of treatment can be scary and I think misconceptions about treatment for phobias can put people off. We don’t want to overwhelm people by forcing them to face their phobia in the first session. Treatment is delivered in a slow, manageable way to help someone work up to facing their fear.Annabel SandersSenior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, NHS Sunderland Talking Therapies
But even if you have had a phobia for a while, treatment can still be very effective, says Annabel Sanders, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at NHS Sunderland Talking Therapies, who works with patients.
Annabel says: “If you have a phobia, the idea of treatment can be scary and I think misconceptions about treatment for phobias can put people off.
“We don’t want to overwhelm people by forcing them to face their phobia in the first session. Treatment is delivered in a slow, manageable way to help someone work up to facing their fear.
“Treatment is aimed at empowering people and equipping them with the tools and strategies to manage their anxiety independently once treatment has ended.”
For some people, it might be hard to determine whether their fear of something is a phobia and worth seeking help for.
Before treating phobias, the team at NHS Sunderland Talking Therapies consider several key factors:
- the impact a phobia has on someone’s life, for example, is a fear of public speaking causing someone to miss out on job opportunities?
- the effort someone puts into avoiding their phobia, for instance some people who fear flying might avoid holidaying abroad
- someone’s reaction if they come into contact with their feared object/situation
- whether their fear is proportionate to the threat their phobia poses
Self-referral is one of the quickest and easiest ways to access treatment from Sunderland Talking Therapies. You can self-refer over the phone by calling 0191 566 5454 or by completing their online self-referral form.