Phobias: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A phobia is an extreme fear of something that is not a real danger. We all live with fears, such as fear of an angry dog running toward you. It is normal to feel fear at the moment that you face real danger. But people with phobias have fears that interfere with their daily lives. They usually know that their fears are not based on real threats, but they feel that they are not able to control the fears.

There are different types of phobias. Fear of being closed in a small space and fear of flying in an airplane are common phobias. You might be afraid of spiders, or fear being struck by lightning, or drowning. Fear of high places is another common phobia. These phobias can cause anxiety, panic, trembling, and a rapid heartbeat. Fear might make you act in a way that is not really needed, such as never leaving home or not climbing stairs. Just thinking about what you fear might make you feel ill.

Many people who finish treatment of phobias are able to overcome their fears over time. If your fear gets in the way of your daily activities, your doctor may prescribe medicine and behaviour therapy.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. When you feel good, you may think you do not need your medicine, but it is important to keep taking it.
  • Find a counsellor you like and trust. Talk openly and honestly about your problems. Be willing to make some changes.
  • Get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping:
    • Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning.
    • Keep your bedroom dark and free of noise.
    • Do not drink anything with caffeine after 12:00 noon.
    • Do not use over-the-counter sleeping pills. They can make your sleep restless. They may also interact with your medicine.
    • Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol before bedtime may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet to help prevent illness.
  • Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports. Exercise can help you relieve stress and feel better.
  • Stay active. Try to do the things you usually enjoy doing, even if you do not feel like doing them.
  • Discuss the cause of your fears with a good friend or family member, or join a support group for people with similar problems. Talking about your fears with others sometimes relieves anxiety.
  • When you start to feel fearful, do something to get it off your mind, such as taking a walk.
  • Trust that you can improve your way of coping with these fears.

What should you do if someone in your family has a phobia?

  • Learn about the phobia and the signs that symptoms are getting worse.
  • Remind your family member that you love him or her.
  • Make a plan with all family members about how to take care of your loved one when his or her fears are bad. Talk about your concerns and those of other family members.
  • Do not focus attention only on the family member who is in treatment.
  • Remind yourself that it will take time for changes to happen.
  • Do not blame yourself for the person's condition.
  • Know your legal rights and the legal rights of your family member.
  • Take care of yourself. Stay involved with your own interests, such as your career, hobbies, and friends.
  • Use exercise, positive self-talk, relaxation, and deep breathing exercises to help lower your stress.
  • If you are having a hard time with your feelings and your interactions with your family member, talk with a counsellor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have trouble sleeping.
  • You feel anxious or depressed.
  • You have a sudden change in behaviour.
  • You have trouble taking care of yourself, or you become confused when doing simple chores or tasks.
  • You start to use illegal drugs or drink alcohol heavily.
  • Your symptoms often upset your daily activities.

Where can you learn more?

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