Find information on phobias, including symptoms, causes and how to access treatment and support. Get tips for helping yourself, plus guidance for friends and family.
It might feel hard to understand why someone has a phobia of a certain situation or object. Especially when their phobia seems irrational.
However, it's important that you take their phobia seriously. Try to understand that their phobia can:
You may not be able to see why they are so afraid of something. But the anxiety and fear they feel is very real.
"I never complain because I see no point in doing so, but I get very tired of being politely mocked for my fear."
Avoiding a situation can make a phobia worse over time. But it can also be very distressing if someone is forced into situations they're not ready to face.
It's important to be patient with them. You should work at a pace that suits them.
"My mother always brings up the discussion about me facing my phobia and maybe getting treatment for it. But for me, right now, I don’t want to face it. I feel I am not ready and I don’t feel it is impacting my life enough that it needs to be faced."
Ask your friend or family member what you can do to help. For example, it might help to:
This might help them feel safer and calmer when they start to feel frightened or panicked. Knowing that you are around, and know what to do, can feel reassuring.
"I feel better if I have someone with me who knows about my anxiety and how to calm me down. It helps if I just focus on that person talking."
If you think their phobia is becoming a problem for them, encourage them to seek treatment.
It can feel challenging to support someone with a mental health problem. You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed at times.
It's important to try to look after your own mental health. If not, it can feel hard to find the energy and time you need to be able to help someone else.
For more ideas, see our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else. This information gives practical suggestions on what you can do and where to find support.
This information was published in February 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
Need more support with this issue? Our helplines are here for you.
Need the references and evidence sheet for this page? Contact our publishing team.
Want to reproduce content from this page? See our page on permissions and licensing.