Animal and Insect Phobia Treatment
An Animal or Insect Phobia is defined as an unrealistic or excessive level of fear and anxiety in response to a specific animal. This level of fear can result in marked distress, and avoidance of situations where there is the possibility of contact with the feared animal. Fear of specific animals is very common in the U.S., with more than one in five people reporting an excessive fear of a particular animal.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for animal and insect phobias is a highly effective treatment, with approximately 90% of individuals recovering after only 10 sessions of treatment. CBT for animal and insect phobias involves re-examining the thoughts and assumptions that serve to maintain fear, and engaging in behaviors that reduce fear and avoidance of the animal. Unlike other phobias, disgust is often experienced along with fear, so disgust is targeted alongside anxiety during treatment. Treatment for animal and insect phobia often involves a combination of the following components:
Relaxation Training: Because people with phobias can become easily emotionally dysregulated when in the presence of the animal they fear, it is often helpful to give people tools to positively influence their level of anxious arousal.
Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a tool to help people identify thought patterns that cause strong emotions, and learn to think about things differently. This is used in treatment of animal phobias by helping people learn more realistic ways of thinking about the animal they fear.
Systematic Exposure: This is the most powerful component of treatment for animal and insect phobias. Systematic exposure begins with identifying a list of varying degrees of contact with the feared animal, including viewing a picture of the animal, all the way up through touching the animal. After arranging the list in order from least anxiety-inducing to most, clients learn to undue the behaviors that maintain the fear, and replace them with confidently facing their fears, one by one until they are no longer anxious or fearful. Starting with the least anxiety-provoking and moving up the hierarchy helps to make this process easier.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a skill to help people detach from their unhelpful thought patterns, and make more contact with what is actually going on around them. It is helpful with phobias, because thoughts about the feared animal are almost always more catastrophic than the actual animal itself. In a manner of speaking, mindfulness helps people get out of their heads, and thus put space between them and the phobia.
At Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles, we specialize in treatment of anxiety disorders, including claustrophobia treatment. Call or email today for an appointment.