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Treating Specific Phobias in London

Efficacy’s Cognitive Behavioural therapists, based in centres across London & Sevenoaks & Sevenoaks, are experts and highly training in delivering CBT treatments to help you overcome your specific phobia.

The word “Phobia” is derived from Greek word “phobos”, which means ‘flight’, ‘fear’. It originated from the Greek deity Phobos – the God of fear.

A phobia is normally defined as an unreasonable fear of a particular situation or object and these are extraordinarily common. Surveys suggest that a clear majority of the population (60.2%) experience “unreasonable fears” (Davey, 2007).These are generally sub-clinical, therefore they do not cause undue distress or disruption in daily life. Where the fear causes undue distress and/or is causing disruption in daily life as a result of avoidance for example, then the individual may benefit from treatment.

Sanders & Wills, (2003) define the characteristics of a phobia stating that “exposure to the feared object or situation leads to severe symptoms of anxiety and a profound need to escape. If the individual cannot escape, they experience significant anxiety, either short-term if the threat disappears, or chronic anxiety if the threat does not easily go away or cannot be avoided. The person will as far as possible try and avoid their fears, which can place great restrictions on their lives.”

Common phobias include fear of animals, birds, insects, heights, enclosed spaces and the sight of blood or injury.

Blood injury phobias is a unique phobia in that there is a tendency for the individual to faint in the presence of blood as a result of a rapid fall in blood pressure. People with blood phobia are afraid of and avoid situations where they may be directly or indirectly exposed to blood. These situations cause the person with blood phobia to experience high anxiety and to flee where possible. They may also faint when hearing someone else talking about blood.

Common Features

Phobias are very common in both men and women although women are more likely to be affected by phobias than men. Most specific phobias in adults are a continuation of childhood phobias.

Phobias affect behaviour, cognition (thoughts) and physiology. Avoidance, escape behaviours, scanning, checking can all be common behaviours with phobias. The physiology of fear experienced with phobias can include palpitations, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness. Negative and anxious thoughts are common with phobias, e.g., “I’m trapped,” “What if I fall?”

Treatment Options

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been shown to be the most effective method of treating specific phobias. The treatment usually involves an educational component to help understand and normalise the experiences of fear and anxiety, working with an individual’s fears and beliefs and carrying out exposure exercises to allow for new learning and experiences to occur.
Exposure can be defined as confronting agreed upon anxiety and fear-provoking triggers, normally in a graded way, therefore starting from a lower level trigger and building up to the most feared one. This is done whilst refraining from carrying out any behaviours which “mask” or distract from fear and anxiety (safety behaviours) during and after exposure, for example seeking reassurance or doing subtle things to make oneself feel better as these behaviours help to maintain the phobias.

Blood injury phobia requires a modified form of therapy due to fainting that can occur. Again CBT has been shown to be effective in working with this problem.

Evidence Base

Wolitzky-Taylor K.B et al (2008) carried out a review of a large number of clinical trials in the treatment of specific phobias and found that exposure based treatments were the most successful and seen as the treatment of choice for specific phobias


Davey GCL (2007) Psychopathology and treatment of specific phobias. Psychiatry 6 (6) 247-253

Sanders, D & Wills F (2003) Counselling for anxiety problems. London: Sage Publications

Wolitzky-Taylor KB, Horowitz JD, Powers MB, & Telch MJ (2008) Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A meta-analysis. Clinical psychology Review 28 1021-1037

If you would like to find out more or book an assessment in London then call on the number below or complete the online contact form.

Telephone: 020 7929 7911