There are a number of effective behavioral techniques that are used by therapists for phobia treatment. Cognitive techniques and medications are also deemed to be useful for treatments. Before discussing these treatments, it is important to note that there exists a relationship between obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias. OCD is an anxiety disorder wherein people afflicted with it are burdened with uncontrollable thoughts, and distressing compulsions. A phobia is the irrational fear over almost anything. For example, germ phobic people have obsessive thoughts about the possibility of contacting microbes, and they always feel the need to wash themselves over and over.
The most commonly used phobia treatment is the behavioral treatment. The main focus of this type of treatment is to expose people to their fears in hopes that it will extinguish their anxiety, and ultimately, OCD. There are three basic components for this treatment, namely systematic desensitization, modeling and flooding. Systematic desensitization involves the client making a list of the situations or objects they fear, ranked from the most to least feared. During this method, the therapist teaches relaxation techniques, and then proceeds to exposing the client from least feared to the most feared. Results are gradual for this method, and will end only when the client can face his or her fears without overwhelming anxiety, and the distressing compulsions are gone.
Modeling, another component of phobia treatment, is normally used together with systematic desensitization. In this case, the therapist must perform or model the right behavior first before asking the client to do the same. By observing the therapist, the client learns to associate calm responses to the therapist’s behavior towards the feared object or situation. The last component of this method is flooding, which entails the client, who is taught relaxation techniques, to be consistently exposed to the feared object until the OCD or phobia is extinguished. This treatment is the least preferred by clients because of the great distress it can cause them.
A special type of phobia, the blood-injection-injury phobia, needs a different kind of phobia treatment. People who are inflicted with this experience a critical decrease in blood pressure and heart rate which can lead to fainting. The phobia treatment technique used for this case is the applied tension technique. The therapist teaches the clients during treatment how to tense muscles in the arms, legs and chest until they can feel the blood rising up to their cheeks. This method increases the blood pressure and heart rate, keeping the phobic person from fainting when faced with blood-injection injuries.
There are other types of phobia treatment available. Cognitive-behavioral treatments combine the behavioral techniques mentioned above with cognitive techniques that help in identifying and challenging distressing thoughts about the feared objects. This type of treatment is very effective for social phobia since it can be administered in a group setting. Biological treatments are the last type of method. People are prescribed with medicines such as benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to provide temporary relief, since they cannot extinguish phobias. There are also studies that proved that relapse happens soon after stopping the medication. To sum it up, it seems that behavior therapy, the best method, still involves the adage “confront your fears.”