Phobias: Care Instructions

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A phobia is an extreme fear of something. We all live with fears, such as fear of an angry dog running toward you. It is normal to feel fear at the moment that you face real danger. But people with phobias have fears that interfere with their daily lives. They usually know that their fears are not based on real threats, but they feel that they are not able to control the fears.

There are different types of phobias. Fear of being closed in a small space and fear of flying in an airplane are common phobias. You might be afraid of spiders, or fear being struck by lightning, or drowning. Fear of high places is another common phobia. These phobias can cause anxiety, panic, trembling, and a rapid heartbeat. Fear might make you act in a way that is not really needed, such as never leaving home or not climbing stairs. Just thinking about what you fear might make you feel ill.

Many people who finish treatment of phobias are able to overcome their fears over time. If your fear gets in the way of your daily activities, your doctor may recommend behavior therapy or medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Find a counselor you like and trust. Talk openly and honestly about your problems. Be open to making some changes.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. When you feel good, you may think you do not need your medicine, but it is important to keep taking it.
  • Get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping:
    • Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every morning.
    • Keep your bedroom dark and free of noise.
    • Do not drink anything with caffeine for several hours before bedtime.
    • Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol before bedtime may cause you to wake up from your sleep and have trouble falling back to sleep.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports. Exercise can help you relieve stress and feel better.
  • Discuss the cause of your fears with a good friend or family member, or join a support group for people with similar problems.
  • Trust that you can improve your way of coping with these fears.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have trouble sleeping.
  • You feel anxious or depressed.
  • You have a sudden change in behavior.
  • You have trouble taking care of yourself, or you become confused when doing simple chores or tasks.
  • You start to use drugs or drink alcohol heavily.
  • Your symptoms often upset your daily activities.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.