If you've made the choice to seek help for a specific phobia, you've taken a huge first step. You may start by talking to your primary care doctor. Depending on your situation, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Symptoms you're experiencing, even if they seem unrelated to your anxiety. Specific phobias may cause both physical and psychological distress.
- Triggers, such as places or things you're avoiding because of your anxiety and fears. Include how you've tried to deal with these triggers, and factors that make the situation better or worse.
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- All medications, vitamins, herbal products or other supplements that you take, and the doses. Include alcohol or other drugs you may be using to reduce your feelings of anxiety.
- Questions to ask your doctor to make the most of your time together.
Questions to ask might include:
- What might have caused me to develop this fear?
- Will this go away on its own?
- Is there anything I can do to improve my symptoms?
- What treatments do you recommend for this disorder?
- Would exposure therapy or CBT help me?
- 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?
- 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?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have?
- What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Be ready to answer your doctor's questions to reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- Have you recently had an attack when all of a sudden you felt frightened or anxious?
- During these attacks of fear or anxiety, have you ever felt like you couldn't breathe or like you were having a heart attack?
- Have you recently been feeling nervous, anxious or on edge?
- 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?
- 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?
- Do you drink caffeinated beverages? How much and how often?
- Do you drink alcohol or use street drugs? How often?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself?
Oct. 19, 2016
- Anxiety disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Sept. 2, 2016.
- Specific phobias fact sheet. National Institute of Mental Illness. http://www2.nami.org/factsheets/specificphobias_factsheet.pdf. Accessed Sept. 2, 2016.
- Gabbard GO, ed. Specific phobia. In: Gabbard's Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2014. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Sept. 2, 2016.
- Specific phobic disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders. Sept. 2, 2016.
- What are anxiety disorders? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders. Accessed Sept. 2, 2016.
- Augustyn M. Overview of fears and specific phobias in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 2, 2016.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 26, 2016.