2 Jan 2012

Dog Phobia: a cognitive behavioral perspective

Most specific phobias (like dog phobia) arise in childhood. Modeling (seeing frightened parents for example) could be one of the causes, as well as conditioning experiences (for example, seeing a person being bitten by a dog) and receiving negative information (stories of friends/family, films, books).

When fear is interfering with daily life it's good to find help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a well-known and efficient therapy to tackle fear and anxiety. It consists of 2 parts: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. This is because in CBT, cognitions as well as behavior are thought to play a crucial role in the way we feel (for example: scared).

Our behavior can change our thoughts and feelings. Besides that, our thoughts can change our feelings and behavior.

People who are afraid of something, tend to avoid the situation or object they fear. In the short term, avoidance helps because you will feel less afraid. But in the long term, this behavior creates persistence or even an increase of the anxiety. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing behavior to overcome fear. Step by step, under professional guidance, you will start exposing yourself to the things you fear. This allows you slowly adapt to situations that you find difficult.

Cognitive therapy is all about the way of thinking. Your thoughts will be examined during treatment. You will learn to think differently about your fear. New, helping thoughts will be created that will help you overcome your fears. For example, people with anxiety disorders often think that the risk of danger is very great. The question is whether this is true? Are these thoughts realistic? What would be a more helpful, realistic thought?


  1. Thanks Esther for your explanations. I'll give a thought about it.

  2. Sorry to bother again, but I've been thinking and I find that my fear of dogs increases when for whatever reason I'm more anxious.
    A friend told me about clinical hypnosis. Anything to do with CBT?

  3. Hi Anna, thanks for your reaction. It's well known that anxiety is triggered more easily when our 'baseline' anxiety level, or treshold, is high for any reason (for example, this could happen in periods of stress, or after seeing a scary movie). That's why it could be helpful to lower this 'baseline' anxiety level, so that we are less easily triggered. Meditation could help, as well as breathing exercises or relaxation/imagination techniques just to name a few.
    Clinical hypnosis doesn't have to do so much with CBT but I know it is used for anxiety problems. I can't tell you a lot about that unfortunately!

  4. Maybe I can help. Clinical hypnosis will help you to immagine while in trance a positive encounter with the dog, with whatever you need to accomplish this. Both types of therapy will attempt at breaking the habit of avoindance.

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