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The Get-a-Grip Guide to Conquering Your Worst Fears

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Spiders, small spaces, and airplanes, oh my! What's behind five common phobias -- and how to beat yours for good.

Where Phobias Come From

I can pinpoint the exact moment when my dislike of flying became a full-fledged phobia. Five years ago, I was returning from a business trip on a perfectly clear day when we suddenly hit turbulence so severe that even the flight attendant seated next to me clutched her chest. It was the most terrifying moment of my life, and I felt certain I was going to die. Once my heart started beating again, I vowed I would never, ever set foot on a plane again.

My phobia -- and how it developed -- is hardly unique. Phobias affect as many as 12 percent of all Americans and are the most common anxiety disorder in women. They're characterized by symptoms such as a pounding heart, nausea, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Though phobias often stem from a bad personal experience, particularly in early childhood, there may also be a genetic link, according to Brian Doyle, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C.

"Some people are just predisposed to anxiety, which makes them more susceptible to developing a phobia," he explains.

If an irrational fear is holding you back or preventing you from enjoying your life to the fullest, it's time to take action. About 20 percent of phobias resolve on their own. For the rest of them, there are things you can do to minimize their hold on you. Here, experts explain what's behind the five most common phobias and how to put your fears to rest -- or at least diminish their intensity. As a bonus, we asked pros such as a flight attendant and a speech coach for practical ways to manage panic in the moment.

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virginia.a.doherty wrote:

In turbulence, I look around, noticing that everyone is relaxed and still reading or working on their laptops makee me relax and say "just pockets of air".

3/8/2010 09:12:52 AM Report Abuse
aztcqn wrote:

In turbulence, I pretend I'm on a bumpy bus. The image of being on the ground helps deflect the fear & nausea, because I relax and flow with the movement.

3/6/2010 08:39:33 PM Report Abuse

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