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Dealing With Animal Phobias

Animals are unpredictable, and they can hurt you if you scare them or encounter an animal whose behaviour is poorly controlled. It’s no wonder, then, that animal phobia is so common. A phobia is more than just a bit of fear.

What to Do if You’re Scared of Dogs, Cats, or Spiders: Managing Animal Phobias

Someone who is afraid of dogs may still be able to be around friendly dogs, or walk past a dog without feeling afraid. But a phobia makes it nearly impossible even to look at a dog without feeling terrified. If you suffer from an animal phobia, you are not alone, but your phobia does not have to impede your ability to live a full life.

Why You Need to Address Your Phobia

A hallmark of phobias is avoiding the thing of which you are afraid, so many people with phobias are quite adamant that there is no need to address the issue. This works well, helping them avoid scary stimuli—that is, of course until a stray dog trots up the driveway or a giant spider is in the bathroom.

Phobias, by definition, inhibit your ability to live a full life. A dog phobia can mean you are unable to live with the romantic partner of your dreams because they have a dog. A spider phobia can make it impossible to garden or enjoy the great outdoors. And a cat phobia could mean you never get to visit your close friend who has a cat. Life is better when you place no artificial limitations on it, so even if it feels scary, addressing your phobia now can make for a happier tomorrow.

Controlling Your Environment

Until your phobia is under control, negative interactions with the animal you are afraid of can make your phobia worse. So it’s important to control your environment as much as possible. That means not going to places where the source of your fear is likely to be present, and not counting on others to protect you. If you are afraid of dogs, for example, you need to know that most dog owners view their dogs as special. So counting on your friends or family to not expose you to their dogs or to prevent their dogs from licking you is a recipe for disaster.

Enlisting the Help of Loved Ones

If your phobia is relatively minor, you may be able to desensitise yourself slowly to the animal you are afraid of. If your friends or family are sensitive to your phobia, they may even be able to help. The key is to start slowly, with a level of exposure you are comfortable with, gradually increasing your exposure to the animal until you are able to tolerate it.

The Role of Counselling

Moving past a phobia is a complex challenge that requires you to challenge yourself without going too far too fast. For most people, eliminating a phobia—particularly of an animal—will need counselling. At Three Seas, we work with phobia clients to help them better understand the physiological and psychological effects of their phobias. We’ll craft a custom plan to help you slowly move from terror to comfort, and to eventually leave your phobia in the past.