Resources and Support for Coping With Phobias

Tips for finding the phobia support you need

group therapy session
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If you are suffering from a phobia, finding reliable support will increase your chances of successfully managing and treating your condition. You may be unsure of what resources are available. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Friends and Family as Resources for Phobia Support

Friends and family can often be very important sources of support for those battling any disorder, and phobias are no exception. If properly trained, your loved ones can help you manage your fears by performing tasks ranging from talking to you through a guided visualization to previewing a potential trigger situation for you.

Unless your loved one happens to be a mental health professional, though, he or she may be clueless about how best to help. Many people begin to shy away from those with phobias or other mental health concerns - not due to lack of compassion, but because they simply do not know what to do.

Getting the support you need often involves your loved ones, so if you feel comfortable, tell your family and friends about your phobia.

Once you have shared your phobia, you can start to ask for help. Give your loved ones concrete ideas and suggestions as to what they can do for you. "Can you come with me to the doctor?" or "Do you mind if I call you after my date tonight?" are examples of clear and precise requests.

Support Groups for Phobias

Although your friends and family can be extremely supportive, they can't be expected to meet all of your needs. A support group can act as another important source of support. Support groups are groups of people who share similar concerns or disorders. They meet on a regular basis to discuss their concerns, share ideas and coping strategies and socialize with each other.

Some support groups are more formalized, with a moderator who guides each session’s discussions, often around a theme. Others are more relaxed and free-form, allowing the discussions to flow naturally.

Traditional support groups meet in person. As the Internet has become a ubiquitous part of people’s lives, many web-based support groups have sprung up. Some researchers question the therapeutic value of these groups, where people may or may not be who they say they are. Yet, others feel that such groups are a wonderful first step for those who suffer from severe social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia, which might keep them from attending in-person support group meetings.

You can find both in-person and online support groups through a simple Internet search. Most groups list their membership requirements, meeting times and other important information online.

Organizations and Internet Resources

There are many organizations that provide resources for people who suffer from phobias and other anxiety disorders. Although most organizations are reputable, it's always wise to be cautious. Some excellent organizations include:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a wonderful place to start. You can participate in an online community, find local resources, and read a wealth of useful information. Membership requires a small fee, but much of the information is available to non-members as well.

Mental Health America

One of the leading nonprofit mental health organizations in the United States, Mental Health America says its goals include improving the mental health of all people. The organization provides fact sheets and useful information, as well as a support group locator.

Healthy Minds

The consumer-education arm of the American Psychiatric Association, Healthy Minds is dedicated to providing access to the latest information and treatment options for people with mental disorders. Regular and guest columnists keep information fresh, while a series of fact sheets help to explain a variety of disorders.

Books and Magazines

Phobias are a relatively common disorder, and many sufferers have published books about their experiences. Reading about someone else’s experiences can help to combat the isolation that many people with phobias experience.

Visit your local bookstore or your favorite online bookseller to find titles on living with phobias. Just remember that everyone’s experiences are different, and what worked for someone else may or may not work for you.

Expanding Your Network

If you're battling with phobias, your natural tendency may be to avoid many of your previous social contacts. Trying to rely on just one or two people is a common and understandable reaction, but in the long run, it's not healthy for your relationships.

Instead, work on expanding your network of support. Most people are happy to help, provided they know what to do. Ask for specific help rather than making more general requests. Also, coordinate efforts between your entire network to ensure that all of your needs are met.

Finally, learn to accept the answer "no" gracefully. Some people are incapable or unwilling to perform certain tasks, but that doesn't have to cause friction in your friendships. Focus on the other ways those people play an important role in your life.

Coping with a phobia is an ongoing battle, and it requires support from a variety of sources. Although finding that support may seem daunting at first, the rewards are well worth the challenges.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.