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Fear is a common part of everyday life. Often, fear can be really useful. A surge of energy and a boost of perception caused by fear could help you to scramble out of the path of an oncoming car, or it could help you to snatch your child’s fingers away from a hot burner. Fear is a vital part of staying alive and unharmed.
Signals of fear are not always benign, however. Sometimes, fear signals fire due to situations that aren’t dangerous, interesting, or noteworthy in any way. Sometimes, people feel fear simply because their brain cells aren’t working as they should.
For example, people with phobias feel a sensation of fear due to objects or situations that others can handle with ease. When people encounter the things that cause them fear, their bodies erupt with classic signs of tension and flight. Some people feel these emotions when they even think about spending time in the presence of the thing that causes fear.
Phobias That Can Lead to Substance Abuse:
Phobias like this, along with other anxiety disorders, are closely tied to the development of substance abuse problems. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that people with anxiety disorders are 2-3 times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem at some point in life, when compared to the general population.
People might have very individual reasons for leaning on substances of abuse, but an overview in the Psychiatric Times suggests that many people with anxiety use substances as coping mechanisms. They cannot handle the feelings that crowd their bodies on a regular basis, so they lean on substances to numb the mind and bring relief. Unfortunately, substances of abuse are closely tied to the development of addictions. When addictions and phobias meet, they can strengthen one another. The anxiety can lead to substance use, and the substance use can lead to anxiety. It is a difficult situation to control, without the help of an expert team.
While a phobia to almost anything could cause this type of anxiety and addiction, there are six specific phobias that have been closely tied to the development of an addiction. They include:
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Clearly, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs is not a clever way to handle a phobia. The substances of abuse tend to make the phobia seem even more powerful and accurate, and that could make true healing very difficult.
Thankfully, people with phobias do not need to lean on techniques that do not work. There are a variety of treatment options for phobias that have been proven to deliver a great deal of relief and release, and they are appropriate for anyone who is living with a phobia.
According to Mental Health America, therapists sometimes use exposure therapy to help people with phobias. Here, the therapist provides instructions people can follow when they begin to feel a little anxious. Deep breathing, meditation, or visualization might all be tricks and tips people can use to quell a rising sense of fear and gain control. When people with phobias have those skills mastered, the therapist provides a slow introduction to the thing that causes fear. Photos, videos, or books about the target of the fear might be a reasonable first step. Once these triggers do not cause fear, the therapist might ask the person to view the thing from a distance. When that is not alarming, the person might be asked to actually interact with the target of the fear.
When an addiction complicates the phobia, the therapist might also provide instructions on avoiding relapse triggers and handling urges to use. Medications and support group work might also play a role due to addiction issues.
With a robust program like this, people with phobias, even if they are complicated by addictions, can get better. The key is to get started. The longer the phobia stays in place, the stronger it might grow. And the more likely it becomes that the phobia is complicated by addiction. The sooner people act and get help, the better the treatment outcome will be.