My Anxiety Plan for Specific Phobia

The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle a Specific Phobia. These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with a Specific Phobia, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.

Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety

This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. In addition, you might find it helpful to start to track your own symptoms to better understand the physical, cognitive, and behavioural parts to your type of anxiety and how this affects you. Please view the following links: ABC's of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not 

Step 2: Learning the facts about Specific Phobias

Reading about the information outlined on the specific phobia main page can help you feel less afraid of what is happening to you. After all, knowledge is power.

The following list includes some facts and highlights common to individuals with Specific Phobias:   

  • Individuals with a specific phobia experience persistent and excessive fears of an object or situation, which significantly interferes with life and is beyond voluntary control. Some common phobias include fear of spiders, rodents, snakes, flying, heights, and injections.
  • Phobias are common. Having a phobia does not mean that you are weak or going crazy. For some people there may be a clear reason for their fear, such as being attacked by a street dog. This might result in a fear response every time you see street dogs. At first this response is helpful as it can keep you safe but if it continues to present upon seeing other types of dogs, such as a sweet and calm Labrador, then your fear may no longer be helpful.
  • Interestingly some phobias develop without apparent cause, but once started can increase in severity quite quickly. As a result, specific phobias can become quite disruptive, interfering with routine tasks, decreasing work productivity, lowering your confidence, and limiting life choices.  
  • It is important to be clear about what exactly about the object or situation is frightening. Is it the noise it makes? Or the way it moves? Is it the fear of being trapped? If you don't work out the specific focus of your fears, you could be wasting time trying to overcome the wrong problem, or be making the work more difficult than it needs to be. For example, if someone is afraid of getting blood drawn, he or she might actually have a blood phobia, not a needle phobia. Thus, doing exposure with needles may be unhelpful, rather, s/he would be better helped to do exposure therapy to blood and not needles.

Step 3: Creating your Specific Phobia MAP

The best way to help deal with a specific phobia, is to have access to tools that can evaluate and challenge your worries and change your problem behaviours. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For Specific Phobias, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your My Anxiety Plan (MAP). These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. There are many effective tools in this section, although Facing My Fears, and, Helpful Thinking will be two of the most useful tools to provide you with much needed relief from your worry.

Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your specific phobia, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.