One of the most common specific phobias is theft phobia, but luckily it responds very well to psychological treatment.
In this article we will see what is the process of working in psychotherapy with patients with phobia of flights, knowing that the treatment is always personalized and varies according to the needs of each person.
What is the phobia of theft?
The phobia of flying is a specific type of phobia, a category of psychopathology that is included in anxiety disorders. Therefore, these psychological disorders will be defined according to the same criteria and similar treatments adapted to the specific type of phobia will be used.
A characteristic trait or criterion of any specific phobia is the disproportionate fear or anxiety that appears in the face of a stimulus, generating great discomfort and the need to avoid it. So, the phobia of flying will lead to a very intense fear of the theft situation which will affect the functionality of the patient, that is, too often it will have a negative impact on different areas of his life.
How are cases of people suffering from this phobia detected?
The diagnosis of specific phobia can only be made by mental health professionals; thus, before the work done in therapy, there is a phase of recognizing the symptoms and identifying the underlying psychopathology.
The Fifth Edition of the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic Manual (DSM 5) states that a number of criteria must be met in order to diagnose a specific phobia. The first defining criterion indicates that the phobia is related to intense fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation, such as being inside an airplane; the second criterion to be observed is that the phobic object or situation almost always causes immediate fear or anxiety, that is, it occurs just when the stimulus appears.
In addition, another criterion that also answers all phobias is that the anxiety is disproportionate to the real danger which generates the specific object or situation (in the case of the phobia of the airplane, the planes used today are very safe); the fourth point is the tendency to avoid the phobic object or situation, or the fact that if it is endured it is with great discomfort.
The next criterion emphasizes that fear, anxiety or avoidance causes discomfort and dysfunction in quality of life in important areas of daily life, such as social and professional life.
Finally, this pattern of fear, anxiety and avoidance should last at least 6 months.
Must also make a differential diagnosis and check that the anxiety is not better explained by another psychological disorder such as Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, or Social Anxiety Disorder, among others.
Thus, knowing the main characteristics to which specific phobias must respond, we can say that the phobia of flying meets the criteria defining the phobia in the face of a specific stimulus caused by the experience or the expectation of flying in airplanes, helicopters, etc. .
Within the specific types of phobia, the one which brings out its symptoms when faced with the situation of flying in an airplane is classified in the category of situational type phobias; that is, anxiety and fear appear in specific situations, with this type of phobia usually occurring later in the 13-22 age group.
How to deal with the phobia of stealing in psychotherapy?
Different treatments of varying efficacy have been used to treat specific phobias, and specific, concrete interventions have also been designed to treat and manage the symptoms of theft phobia.
The techniques that have proven to be the most useful and effective for any phobia are behavioral and cognitive; in particular, exposure to the phobic stimulus will be essential in order to overcome and cope with the anxiety that accompanies it.
This involves, among other things, getting the person to “expose themselves” to the phobic stimulus gradually and from the easiest to the most difficult, to resist the urge to withdraw and to avoid this kind of experience. . Therefore, it is possible to work with imaginative exercises (with pre-training in the ability to imagine vividly), with virtual reality resources that offer simulations of the interior of an airplane, or using real planes.
Likewise, components and forms of treatment adapted to the phobia of flying will be used in a specific way. So, a type of treatment program that includes the following has been used for the phobia of thefts.
There is first a phase of psychoeducation, which aims to inform the patient of the nature of the disorder he has developed, helping him to get rid of preconceptions and misconceptions that could hinder improvement in his quality of life.
The patient is informed about what he is and how it affects phobias and anxiety, so that he can better understand what is happening to him, and he also receives information about airplanes and how they work, making reference to their safety. an accident compared to other means of transport.
2. Intervention on cognitive processes
Another component used focuses on the treatment of possible cognitive impairments that may arise in the patient, i.e. irrational or false beliefs that the subject may present.
For this, we will use the technique of cognitive restructuring, which consists of identifying those irrational or negative beliefs related to planes and the act of boarding that arise in the patient, and which generate great emotional distress and frustration.
This process consists of ask questions and present topics that allow you to confront and change these harmful ideas, allow the patient himself to question his beliefs after being presented with certain information or made to combine two or more concepts. It is an intervention inspired by the Socratic method.
3. Training in relaxation techniques
Then proceed to teaching controlled breathing and / or relaxation techniques. This helps the subject to control their breathing by relaxing the abdominal muscles, contracting the diaphragm, and relaxing the intercostal muscles.
Through the conscious control of certain processes linked to the physiological aspect of the individual, it helps to let the anxiety state go awaybecause it is associated with a state of hyper-activation of nerves and muscles.
4. Exposure exercises
As we have seen, in psychotherapy applied to cases of phobia of flying, it is necessary that the person learns to face the fear without constantly giving in “to what the body asks him” before the appearance of the phobic stimulus, reason for which will have to give up avoiding or fleeing these experiences. To facilitate this process, exposure techniques used in psychotherapy have been developed and are designed so that the patient does not become frustrated or fearful of failing again and again in trying to overcome anxiety.
Ignacio Garcia Vicente
Ignacio Garcia Vicente
Thus, psychologists give a series of instructions on how to deal with anxiety (related to temporarily accepting a certain level of discomfort without seeking to eliminate it completely and keep it “away from the mind”) and with a curve of ascending difficulty and adapted to the degree to which the person is able to resist the phobic stimulus at each stage of therapy.
For example, we can start with an imaginary exposure, that is to say without the real phobic stimulus (you can use both a computer program and virtual reality, or imaginative exercises) and then move on to real stimuli.