It’s hard to explain a fear or phobia to someone who doesn’t have it. How can you make another person understand that you’d rather walk 15 flights of stairs than ride in an elevator, or cough up a thousand bucks than be in the same room as a spider? For most people, fears and phobias are just people making a huge deal of something so innocuous and harmless.

But the impact of fears and phobias can range from mere discomfort to downright terror. In fact, it can trap a person in state of constant anxiety, so much so that he or she would find difficulty in accomplishing anything productive or maintaining a fulfilling relationships. It can even take its toll on a person’s physical health. Actively avoiding that which you dislike the most — especially if the object is literally everywhere, like mascots, domesticated animals, water — can result to stress reactions like migraines, hypertension, stomach problems and loss of appetite.

Do you have a fear or phobia that you have difficulty managing? If yes, then consider the following tips:

Consider gradual desensitization. A technique that works well with fears and phobias is gradual desensitization; that is, deliberate exposure to increasing degrees of the object or situation you’re most afraid of. If you have fear of public speaking, for example, start overcoming your fear by gathering the courage to hold a microphone in your hand. You can listen to music you enjoy while doing so, to help you in associating the anxiety-provoking situation with something pleasant.

When holding a mic doesn’t give you the jitters anymore, try standing on stage in front of empty seats. Next, try delivering a speech to the mirror; afterwards to 1 or 2 people you trust. Slowly and steadily, you can inch your way to doing that which used to give you panic attacks. 

Understand the roots of your fear and phobia. Reactions to fears and phobia are learned reactions — you picked them up from somewhere. Did an experience of almost drowning give you a fear of swimming pools? Is your claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces) a result of getting locked inside a cabinet for a day? Understand that the event that taught you to fear is likely an isolated event that won’t happen again. If getting an apology or an explanation from people responsible for your trauma can help you move on, by all means solicit justification.

Know simple techniques to calm yourself down. Some people have found that totally eliminating fears and phobias in their life is a difficult thing that may take years to accomplish. But in the meanwhile, you can still live a productive and fulfilling life by accepting and accommodating. You can start by identifying ways to avoid exposure to triggers of your anxiety reaction.  You should also arm yourself with techniques that can give you instant calm when faced with a situation you can’t control. Breathing exercises have been known to help in many anxiety issues; the same goes for anti-anxiety medication. Always consult a licensed mental health professional for the latter.

Seek counseling or therapy. Lastly, don’t think twice about consulting a mental health professional for your condition. There are already many proven techniques that can assist persons with fears and phobias, such as Cognitive-Behavioral techniques and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Who knows, understanding your fear and phobia may give you new insight about yourself and a new sense of empowerment. Overcoming a mental health condition is usually a gateway to enhanced mental health.