The Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center
Offering the keys to recovery since 1971

(914) 681-1038

Q & A as posed to the Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center

Is it common for phobic people to have thoughts of losing control?

Yes, this is very common with people who suffer with phobias.  They fear they will “lose control” of themselves and act in an irrational manner (e.g. screaming, running away, embarrassing themselves)

The phobic person doesn’t usually carry out these thoughts.

It is OK to have these thoughts.  It is what you do with them that matters.  Try to remember the many times you have had these thoughts and haven’t lost control..

 How can I stop the spiraling-the “what ifs”?

The first step is to recognize that when you start to think “what if” you are thinking in the future.  Try to bring your thoughts back to the present reality.  Get involved in the environment around you.  Use the senses of sight, touch or smell to help you.

Look at something, another person, a tree, whatever and try to take in every detail.  Imagine you have to write a report or relate the details to someone.  Touch something in your pocket and feel if it is hot, cold, rough or smooth.  If it is money try to distinguish what denomination the coins are.  Some people smell perfume, eat a very sour candy or a menthol cough drop.  All these actions reorient your thoughts to the present.

Remember the things that work for you and use them in the future.  In time you will be able to change your thinking from anticipatory “what ifs” to realistic thoughts, thereby reducing your anxiety levels.

When working on my own, how do I set goals?  I often encounter failure.

Maybe you are not realizing that even if you do not complete the goal you have done

something.  Many phobia sufferers are perfectionists.  They feel that if they don’t complete the whole task perfectly it is a complete failure.  The only failure is in not trying at all.  Each small step can be a success. For instance, if you are working on shopping in the grocery store, first drive there and park.  The next time get out of the car and look in the window.  Then enter the store but don’t try to purchase anything.  Gradually enter the phobic situation until it becomes comfortable and routine.

Plan what to do if your anxiety begins to rise-what tools or methods of changing your thinking will be helpful.  Also remember it is very important to compliment yourself for having done something, however small you may consider it to be.  Some days will be better than others.  Even if you are feeling depressed, try to do something and give yourself credit for having done it.  After all, you could have stayed home and not tried at all.  The goal is to function with levels of anxiety and understand how to handle those feelings.

How do I cope in the phobic situation?

When you are with a non-phobic person in a difficult situation, try to think like him.  Try to figure out what is going on in his mind and why he is not reacting as you are.

  • Try not to five the phobic feelings so much importance—let them happen.
  • Say to yourself: This is as bad as it’s going to get.  I’m not going to die, and it will go away.
  • Let the feelings come.  Keep yourself oriented to reality , not getting lost where the feelings might take you.
  • If you are having difficulty and not having a good experience, think of it as just a practice; each situation will not always be perfect.
  • Don’t allow the unexpected to upset you.  It is much more difficult to try to keep yourself steady than to simply let the feelings “run their course.”

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