Fear Factor: Overcome Phobia by facing it

Phobias are like annoying relatives who can’t be avoided forever. Ignoring them will not make them go away.  It is better to figure out how to confront the little devils before they devour your life. Talking about individual fears is a pretty good way to start considering the fact that bottling them up will only make fear control your life.
Phobia treatment requires facing your worst fears.
Phobia treatment requires facing your worst fears.

Phobias are like annoying relatives who can’t be avoided forever. Ignoring them will not make them go away.  It is better to figure out how to confront the little devils before they devour your life.

Talking about individual fears is a pretty good way to start considering the fact that bottling them up will only make fear control your life.

Confrontation is one of the best ways to deal with some of the most common phobias in the world. It is not an easy thing to do but the freedom that comes as the aftermath of facing these fears is so worth the trouble.


“I never actually knew I had a phobia for flying till the day I stepped on a plane,” says Agnes Kayitesi, a working mother of four living in Remera.

“It was around June last year when I went to visit my daughter who is attending her University in England. The second I got onto the plane I started to panic and my palms got sweaty which was strange because I had never felt that way before.

“The flight attendants were really helpful and told me I was suffering from a panic attack though at one point I was determined to get off the plane. One lady called Janice who sat next to me told me the only way I would ever be able to fly again was if I faced the fear then. I’ve never held onto anyone’s hand as hard as I held Janice’s,” Kayitesi recalls.

Aviophobia, which is what people like Kayitesi suffer from, is one of the most common phobias in the world. Even though flying is one of the safest forms of transport, people are often afraid of airplanes. It’s often a combination of several other phobias, including not being in control and a fear of having a panic attack.

“The journey to Heathrow just seemed forever. I kept asking if we were close to the destination while breathing in a paper bag and chewing cashew nuts to help get my mind off the fact that I was in the air with no sight of land around me. Lucky for me the lady next to me kept the window shield down so I wouldn’t have to see how high we were. I do remember seeing some clouds from the window on the opposite side which left me so traumatized that I was given a tranquilizer to help me sleep,” explained Kayitesi.


Probably the most common phobia is arachnophobia which is basically the fear of spiders. It is so common that a movie with the same name was made. One has to wonder why people are afraid of these creatures when most of them are not even detrimental. The tarantula is bar far the most feared of these arachnids and is a native to tropical and subtropical America.

Their bite can be pretty painful but, there are no documented deaths resulting from tarantula bites. Regardless of their fearsome reputation, this arachnid is not as harmful as it is crazed up to be. Some people however will beg to differ when it comes to spiders since tarantulas are also considered a delicacy in certain cultures (e.g., Cambodia). They are usually roasted over an open fire to remove the hair and then eaten. How is that for frightening?

“I personally have a phobia for anything that crawls or at least looks like it’s crawling. Spiders, snakes, snails, caterpillars and centipedes top my list and I don’t know if I will ever be able to overcome that fear,” says City Beauty Parlor masseuse Tina Mutoni.

Tracing back to the reality show Fear Factor that implicated people doing the most dreadful things for a sum of US$250,000. Mutoni insists that not even Bill Gates’ empire could convince her to sleep in a box of spiders for even half a second.

“I would really like to overcome that fear because every time I see something even remotely suspicious crawling in the house, I scamper out to get someone to sort it out for me,” she adds.

For people like Mutoni, accepting these creepy creatures as part of nature’s beauty is one step further to overcoming the phobia. It needs to be imprinted in one’s mind that these things are not going anywhere and that they are probably more scared of us than we are of them.


The fear of confined or enclosed spaces seems like a really silly thing to be afraid of but it’s amazing how many people out there suffer from it and is often accompanied by the fear of being unable to escape from the situation. It is typically classified as an anxiety disorder and often results in panic attacks, and can be the consequence of many situations, including elevators crowded to capacity, windowless rooms, and surprisingly even tight-necked clothing.

One study indicates that anywhere from five to seven percent of the world population is affected by severe claustrophobia.

“I can understand why someone would actually be afraid of an enclosed place,” says Kayitesi, “because there is nothing worse than feeling like you are trapped and just have no way out.”

Unlike its counterparts, claustrophobia is a little harder to deal with since confrontation would mean probably being locked in a storage room with no windows and the door slammed firmly shut. That wouldn’t be so easy since one could end up passing out due to the lack of sufficient air supply they think is causing them not to breathe well.

Cognitive therapy is a widely accepted form of treatment for most anxiety disorders.  The ultimate goal of cognitive therapy is to modify distorted thoughts or misconceptions associated with whatever is being feared; the theory is that modifying these thoughts will decrease anxiety and avoidance of certain situations. For example, cognitive therapy would attempt to convince a claustrophobic patient that elevators are not dangerous but are, in fact, very useful in getting you where you would like to go faster.

An after study showed that cognitive therapy decreased fear and negative thoughts/connotations by an average of around 30 percent in the claustrophobic patients tested, proving it to be a reasonably effective method.


Being afraid of heights doesn’t sound ridiculous in the least and a lot of people can testify to the fact that is heights are every bit as terrifying as the sound. It could be standing close to the edge of a cliff, or enjoying a roller coaster ride at the amusement park. Fear of heights manifests in lots of ways. At its extreme, it may even mean not taking a ride in a glass fronted elevator.

In this case, if one is not ready to fight the problem, I suggest that bungee jumping, hiking or sky diving be left out of the equation when on holiday as they require severe height confrontation; though that would be the fastest way to relieve the fear. It must be noted nonetheless that this kind of adventure is not for the faint hearted and health checkups are always required to ensure one is physically able to engage in such extreme activity.

Dental phobia

A lot of people will agree with this particular phobia because since time immemorial, no one has ever been excited about going to the dentist. Dentists have this thing that can’t be explained that leaves you in shivers and at the peak of jumping out the window before they can get their hands on you.

It is estimated that up to 15 percent of the Western world are afraid of dentists and whereas the percentage of Africans suffering from this is not entirely known, it is still popular. This could be partly due to fear of needles, dentist’s drills and even the white coats.

Lucy Mwire a 24-year-old Rwandan currently studying in Los Angeles says she has never overcome her fear for dentists.

“Since I was a kid, I was always taken to the dentist kicking and screaming. All these years later and my heart still beats faster every time I get to the dentist for my checkup,” she says.


It can be related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is essentially the fear of germs. Mysophobia is often accompanied by repeated hand washing and an avoidance of anything that is viewed as unclean. Oprah Winfrey tried to help people overcome their OCD through a therapy program that involved contact with germs.

It really doesn’t sound cute or sane (for that matter) licking the side of some filthy rubbish can to overcome the fear of germs, does it? But that is how they got through it and were able to shake a few hands without dashing off to the bathroom to wash their hands or walk around wearing gloves even when not appropriate.


The fear of water, often accompanied by a fear of drowning is also a very popular phobia. Up to 1 in 50 people are estimated to have a fear of water. I don’t know if this includes taking a bath but it has to be questioned. It involves a level of fear that is beyond the patient’s control or that may interfere with daily life; hence the shower! One may avoid such activities as boating and swimming, or avoid swimming in the deep ocean despite having mastered basic swimming skills. This anxiety commonly extends to getting wet or splashed with water when it is unexpected, or being pushed or thrown into a body of water.

From the fear of germs to fear of commitment, these phobias can be dealt with. All it needs is time and patience, for fear as we all know it, is not one to get over at the snap of a finger.


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