Phobias

1 What are Phobias?

An overwhelming and unreasonable fear of situation or an object that poses little real danger is called phobia.

This can trigger avoidance and anxiety – which is long lasting unlike the normal, brief anxiety most people feel – that can cause psychological and physical reactions and can influence your ability to act normal.

There are many types of phobias;

  • some people have a fear of large,
  • open spaces or specific phobias such as fear of heights,
  • spider or snakes.

Some of the phobias do not require treatment but there are several therapies available if it affects your daily life and can help you in overcoming your fear.

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of phobia vary depending on its type.

The three main categories of phobias are:

Specific phobias

A persistent and irrational fear of a specific situation or object that is really not an actual risk. This includes:

  • fear of nature (heights, thunderstorms);
  • fear of situations (enclosed spaces, airplanes);
  • fear of injection, injury or blood (medical procedures, knives);
  • fear of animals or insects (spider, dogs);
  • or other phobias (clowns, loud noises).

It is common that you can experience more than one phobia because there are many types of specific phobias;

Social phobia

Acombination of fear of public humiliations and excessive self-consciousness, the fear of being evaluated negatively or of being rejected or offending others;

Fear of open spaces (agoraphobia)

Anticipated situation such as using public transportation, being in an enclosed spaces, being in a crowd or being outside all by yourself.

A person who will develop this has one or more panic attacks which can lead to fear of having an attack again and as a result will not go in that same place where it occurred. Some people are afraid to leave their home because they already develop a severe agoraphobia.

You’ll likely to have these reactions:

  • the feeling that you must do everything that you can to avoid what you fear;
  • feeling of uncontrollable drear,
  • terror or panic when you are exposed to the source of your fear;
  • rapid heartbeat, sweating and difficulty breathing;
  • a feeling of intense anxiety or panic;
  • the inability to act or function normal;
  • the feeling that you fears are exaggerated but you feel powerless to control them;

In children:

  • tantrums,
  • crying or clinging;
  • in other cases they will have anxiety just thinking about their fears.

Seek medical assistance to help you with your fear if you think that it is disrupting your life.

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3 Causes

There is still a lot to learn about the actual cause of phobias but it appears that your phobia and the phobias of your parents are linked together making it genetic or learned behavior.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Consult your doctor if you want to treat your phobia and he may refer you to a mental health provider to receive a diagnosis.

Before the appointment, make a list of all the symptoms that you are experiencing even if they seem unrelated. Make a list of all the major stresses and recent changes in your life. Write down the medications, supplements and vitamins that you are taking and even their dosage.

Some of the questions that you can ask your doctor include

  • What might have caused me to develop this fear?
  • Will this fear go away on its own?
  • Are there any tests I need to take?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • What are the possible side effects of these treatments?
  • If I will take medication, will I improve immediately?
  • Would talk therapy help me?

Your doctor will also ask you some questions such as

  • Have you had an attack then all of a sudden you felt anxious?
  • Are you recently nervous?
  • During your attacks, have you ever felt like you could not breathe?
  • What are the other symptoms that you are experiencing?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • When do they occur?
  • Do you avoid any places because you are afraid it might trigger your fear?
  • How are these affecting your everyday life?
  • Do you have other medical conditions?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?
  • Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms?
  • Have you ever thought about harming yourself?

The diagnosis will be based on a thorough clinical interview and diagnostic guidelines because there are no lab tests for phobias.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical, social and psychiatric history. You must meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that was published by the American Psychiatric Association to be diagnosed with phobia.

This manual is mostly used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatments and by mental health providers. The diagnostic criteria for specific phobias include:

  • anxiety or fear that is irrational or out of proportion to the risked posed by an object;
  • an intense anxiety or fear that is triggered by a situation or object like snakes;
  • trying to avoid the situation or object that you fear;
  • immediate anxiety response when you confront the source of your fear;
  • persistent avoidance and phobia that mostly lasts than 6 months or longer;
  • problems or distress with regards to social activities.

The diagnostic criteria for social phobia include:

  • fear that you will be humiliate or embarrass yourself or negatively viewed by others with the possibility of rejection or offending others;
  • intense anxiety or fear in one or more social situations where you feel like you will be scrutinized by others;
  • you avoid performing or endurance of them with extreme distress;
  • intense anxiety which can form a panic attack;
  • distress or problems caused by the phobias that is affecting your life such as your work and relationships;
  • persistent avoidance and phobia that usually lasts than 6 months or longer;
  • anxiety or fear that are out of proportion to any real risk.

The diagnostic criteria for agoraphobia are severe fear or anxiety about one or more of the following situations:

  • being out of home all by yourself;
  • being in an open space like parking lot or mall;
  • using public transportation like bus or plane;
  • being in a crowd or waiting in line;
  • being in an enclosed space like a small store or movie theater.

These situations can cause anxiety because you think that you will not be able to find help or escape the situation. The additional diagnostic criteria for agoraphobia include:

  • required assistance of a companion,
  • avoidance of the situations with extreme distress;
  • anxiety or fear that results from exposure to the situation;
  • anxiety or fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the situations;
  • persistent phobia and avoidance that usually lasts than 6 months or more;
  • significant problems or distress with social situations or other areas in your life that is caused by avoidance, fear or anxiety.

5 Treatment

Your doctor may recommend and behavior therapy or both for the treatment of phobias to reduce the fear and anxiety and to manage your reactions to the situations or objects.

Some of the medication s that can help in reducing panic and fear include:

  • Beta blockers – blocks the stimulating effects of adrenaline such as elevated pressure; increased heart rate and pounding heart and this should be taken before an anticipated event;
  • Antidepressants – selective serotonin reuptakes inhibitors (SSRIs) that acts on your neurotransmitter that is believed to influence mood;
  • Sedatives – benzodiazepines for relaxation, this should be taken with precaution because this can be addictive.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy can be effective and it includes:

  • Desensitization or exposure therapy – you will be exposed to your phobia so you will learn to conquer your anxiety and this will focus on your response to the situation or object that you fear;
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – you will be expose to the phobia and at the same time will be combined with other techniques so you will learn ways on how to cope with the situation and to control your feelings.

The treatments depend on the type of phobia that you have such as:

  • Specific phobias – exposure therapy;
  • Social phobias – exposure therapy or with beta blockers or antidepressants;
  • Agoraphobia – exposure therapy or with SSRIs especially if with panic disorder.

6 Prevention

The development of phobias is due to several factors. To prevent them from occurring, make sure your mental health in other areas is in check.

Get psychological help especially if you have a family if you have unreasonable fears.

Genetic may play a role in the development of phobias but it can also trigger phobias in children if they keep seeing someone else’s phobic reaction.

Deal with your own fears so you will not pass in on to your kids.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the homeopathic remedy for phobias include:

  • Aconite – for fear of death during pregnancy, fear of death, darkness, noisy places, music, fear of ghosts, intense fear with awful anxiety and restlessness;
  • Stramonium – for fear of darkness, fear in delirium, fear of dogs;
  • Opium – for fear of death;
  • Nux vom – for fear of noise, fear of fantastic dream;
  • Mercurius – for fear with desire to escape;
  • Arsenic album – for great phobia and anxiety, fear of being alone;
  • Cuprum aceticum – for fear of bed clothes;
  • Arnica mont – for fear of horror, fear of sudden death;
  • Belladonna – for fear of evil things, fear of animals;
  • Hyoscyamus – for fear of being poisoned;
  • Succinum – for fear of trains and closed rooms;
  • Bryonia – for fear of poverty;
  • Argentum Nitricum – for fear of going in a crowd, cinema or crowded room;
  • Phosphorus – for fear of darkness, fear of thunderstorm, fear of suffocation;
  • Lyssin – for fear of water.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Follow some of this tips to care and cope with fhobias:

  • reach out by joining a support group where you can connect with others who understands what you are feeling;
  • try not to avoid feared situations with the help of your family, friends and therapist;
  • drink your medication as prescribed by your doctor;
  • take good care of yourself by getting enough rest and eating healthy and staying physically active.

To help your child with childhood fears – such as fear of the dark or monsters – do not belittle your child for being afraid but instead listen to him; do not reinforce phobia and help them to overcome their fears.

For example, your child is afraid of your neighbor’s cat, instead of asking him to avoid the cat, help him to confront the cat by letting him go near it one step at a time; demonstrate how to respond positively when confronted by something that your kid fears and you may show them how to overcome it.

9 Risk and Complications

Some of the risk factors that may increase your risk of phobias include:

  • Age – social phobia mostly develops by the age of 13 while specific phobias mostly will develop by the age of 10 and agoraphobia mostly occurs in late teens and early adulthood or before the age of 35;
  • if you are more inhibited, sensitive and negative;
  • you experienced a traumatic event like being attacked by an animal;
  • if someone in your family has a phobia, this can be inherited or they may develop it by observing family members.

Some of the problems that can affect your life include:

  • Social isolation – if you avoid places that you fear it can cause problems in your relationships and professional aspect and can lead to loneliness and academic problems;
  • Depression – as well as other anxieties;
  • Suicide – for people who have specific phobias;
  • Substance abuse – because of severe phobias.
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