If you've made the choice to seek help for a phobia, you've taken a huge first step. Start by talking to your primary care doctor. Depending on your situation, you may be referred to a mental health provider for evaluation and treatment.
What you can do
These suggestions can help you get the most from your appointment.
- Make a list of the symptoms you're experiencing, even if they seem unrelated to your anxiety. Phobias generally cause both physical and psychological distress. Note what triggers your anxiety, how you've tried to deal with it, and factors that make it better or worse.
- List key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins, herbal products or other supplements that you're taking, as well as the dosages.
Prepare questions to ask your doctor ahead of time, such as:
- What might have caused me to develop this fear?
- Is this something that will go away on its own? Or is there anything I can do on my own to improve my symptoms? For instance, if I'm afraid to fly, should I force myself to fly anyway?
- What treatments do you recommend for this disorder?
- What are the side effects of medications commonly used for this condition?
- If I decide to take medications, how long will it take for my symptoms to improve?
- If the first medication I try isn't effective, what will you recommend next?
- Would talk therapy help me?
- How much improvement can I expect if I follow your recommended treatment plan?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
Don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Be ready to answer your doctor's questions so you have time to focus on points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask these questions:
Feb. 08, 2014
- Have you recently had a spell or an attack when all of a sudden you felt frightened, anxious or very uneasy?
- Would you say that you have recently been feeling nervous, anxious or on edge?
- During these attacks of fear and anxiety, have you ever felt like you couldn't breathe or like you were having a heart attack?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- When are your symptoms most likely to occur?
- Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
- Do you avoid any situations or places because you fear they'll trigger your symptoms?
- How are your symptoms affecting your life and the people closest to you?
- What else concerns you that we haven't yet talked about?
- Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? How often?
- Anxiety disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed July 25, 2013.
- Phobias. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.psychiatry.org/phobias. Accessed July 22, 2013.
- Phobic disorders. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric_disorders/anxiety_disorders/phobic_disorders.html?qt=phobic%20disorders&alt=sh. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Augustyn M. Overview of fears and specific phobias in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 29, 2013.
- Whiteside SP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 27, 2013.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 29, 2013.
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