What Is a Phobia?
People usually have fears like drowning, getting hurt by knives, fire, cockroaches, etc. However, in some cases, the fears become so irrational that the person has severe anxiety and tries everything possible to avoid facing the situations they’re afraid of. When fears become overtly irrational and cross a timeline of over six months, it is known as a phobia. Most phobias do not possess any actual danger, like the fear of closed spaces, heights, flying, etc. Commonly, one develops a phobia during their childhood. However, even adults can develop a phobia due to some triggers in their life.
Most people diagnosed with a phobia do understand that their fear is irrational, however, they have no control over it. They become anxious merely thinking of the objects they’re afraid of. People with a phobia can go to extreme lengths to avoid facing the things they fear. For example, a person with the fear of flying may not attend their sister’s island wedding because it’ll involve traveling by air.
- There are 400 different types of phobia recognized by scientists.
- The fear of embarrassment in public is termed as social phobia, and the fear limited to a particular object is termed as a specific phobia.
- Approximately 3% of the world’s population is diagnosed with some sort of phobia.
- Only 23% of people with a phobia seek treatment.
- One can develop a phobia at any age, but a social phobia usually develops during one’s teenage years and specific phobias are developed during childhood.
- Social phobia is also a common cause for depression.
Different Types of Phobia
Phobias are divided into three types:
- Social Phobia: When a person has severe anxiety about social situations, the condition is known as social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Here, people go out of their way to avoid any public situations. In some cases, a simple task like calling a friend or asking for change while buying something from the store can trigger panic attacks.
- Specific Phobia: A phobia developed against a specific situation or object is known as a specific phobia. If the fear is severe enough to interfere with one’s daily life, it is considered a specific phobia. Specific phobia includes acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), hemophobia (fear of blood), cynophobia (fear of dogs), etc.
- Agoraphobia: When a person has a fear of things or situations that cannot be escaped or avoided, it is known as agoraphobia. Here, the person usually avoids being in open spaces or crowded areas. People with agoraphobia prefer staying at home rather than going out and getting involved in social life. Agoraphobia is more common with people who have chronic health problems, as they’re afraid they might have a medical emergency when they’re in a crowded area and it might be fatal.
Symptoms of Phobia
The following are signs and symptoms one has when they develop a phobia:
- People with a phobia get panic attacks When they’re around something they fear. They also begin sweating profusely.
- Difficulty in breathing and an increase in heart rate is also observed.
- The feeling of being dizzy or lightheaded.
- They also have chest pain, start trembling with fear, and also get hot and cold flashes.
- Apart from trembling, they also have a fear of losing control.
- They feel an intense need to escape.
- They feel overwhelming anxiety and panic.
Phobia, though severe, can be treated. Patients with a phobia need to first understand that they have an anxiety disorder before their treatment can begin. Recognizing their problem is the most important step towards recovery. Phobia can be treated with the help of therapy, systematic desensitization, progressive relaxation, and medication.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient is challenged to face their fears by understanding their anxiety and panic. The program involves decreasing negative thoughts and fears, along with an increase in problem-solving and coping mechanisms. The realization of one’s fears being irrational helps the patients to cope with their phobia. CBT is given as per the age of the patient. In most cases, it proves to be successful but the patient does have a little discomfort at the beginning.
- Medications: A lot of patients with anxiety and phobias are prescribed antidepressants to regulate the fears. Medications like SSRIs and MAOIs have proved to be helpful with patients in the past.
- Systematic Desensitization: Systematic desensitization deals with controlled exposure to one’s fears so that it’s not overwhelming and the patient gets used to it over time. The patient will be exposed to their phobia and taught techniques for relaxation to help overcome their fears of it. Virtual reality is also used in some cases as a form of treatment.
- Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy helps people overcome phobias by understanding the underlying cause of the phobia. It is often used in conjunction with systematic desensitization. When the underlying cause of the phobia is discovered, systematic desensitization is used to help the patient get rid of their fears.
Although there is primary support from therapists, friends, or relatives, it is known that additional support makes living with a phobia a whole lot easier. It's a known fact that reading first-person accounts from people suffering from the same phobias help in understanding their personal struggles. Other credible sources say that it is important to speak with someone who has been in the same shoes as you.
Living with phobias is certainly difficult. The object of your phobia may not appear regularly in your real life, but most of the people suffering from a phobia spend their time thinking and worrying about the appearance of the object. Not only this, people spend many hours in order to avoid the object and this causes a lot of distress.
Many people who suffer from a phobia experience starkly similar concerns, regardless of the type of phobia they have. It is very important that you seek therapy in order to live a happy and prosperous life. Don’t let your phobia get the best of you.