According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19.2 million American adults suffer from a specific phobia—such as fear of flying, heights, spiders, or public speaking. (The other day, Real Simple’s own etiquette columnist, Catherine Newman, wrote a great essay about her phobia in The New York Times. Confession: I have the same one!).
Happily, there’s hope for fearful folks. In a recent study published in Psychological Science, researchers asked 88 people with a fear of spiders to approach a large, live tarantula. One week later, when asked to confront the arachnid again, subjects who had expressed their emotions out loud the first time (for example, “I’m terrified of that hideous thing!”) were able to get closer than were those who had kept their fear to themselves. Even more impressive? Their palms were measurably less sweaty.
So if you’re looking to conquer whatever makes you cringe, start by voicing your terror. It could really help!
For tips on conquering more everyday anxieties, check out these six tips.