Do you Have a Phobia?
Recently, a friend shared her story about living with agoraphobia, the fear of enclosed public spaces or crowded places. When she was 26, she discovered that she would get a panic attack whenever she went outside. At first, she thought it was because she had gone to an unfamiliar place. She stopped going there but soon discovered that the panic attacks would return any time she went outside. She only felt safe when she was at home; even the thought of going to her garden would make her panic. She eventually got help when she joined a support group of fellow sufferers of phobias.
We all have phobias from time to time. Some people fear going to the dentist, others fear heights, while others fear being alone. While fear is good because it tells us we are in danger, too much of it can be bad. Oftentimes, fear is imagined and not real.
Phobias are mental disorders that affect many people. According to the American Psychological Association, 11% of people have a phobia over their lifetime.
What Are Phobias?
Phobias are enduring irrational fears of situations or certain things. They are more obvious than fears and develop when an individual has an unrealistic or exaggerated sense of danger about an object or situation.
A person with a phobia experiences a lot of distress and organizes their life to avoid whatever makes them anxious. If you have a phobia, you may not experience symptoms till you come across the source of your phobia. Phobia symptoms include:
- Shaking and trembling
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Palpitations or increased heart rate
- Stomach upset
You can lead a somewhat normal life if you don’t come across the source of your phobia often. But if you have a complex phobia like agoraphobia, it can be very hard to lead a normal life.
Types of Phobias
While there are many sources of phobias, there are only two categories of phobias:
- Specific phobias
- Complex phobias
These phobias are also called simple phobias and are centered on a specific object, activity, situation, or animal. They mostly develop during childhood and may decrease in severity as one gets older. Common examples include:
- Environmental phobias: fear of heights, germs, or deep water
- Bodily phobias: fear of blood or vomit
- Animal phobias: fear of spiders, dogs, and rodents
- Situational phobias: fear of flying or going to the dentist
These phobias are more disabling than specific phobias. They often develop during adulthood and are connected to an innate fear or anxiety about a specific situation. The most common ones are:
- Social phobia/social anxiety disorder: an extreme fear of social situations. People with social phobia feel anxious in social situations and are afraid of embarrassing themselves or being humiliated in public.
- Agoraphobia: the fear of crowded places or enclosed public spaces. A person suffering from agoraphobia will avoid being in situations where escaping is hard if they have a panic attack.
Phobia vs. Fear
Fear and phobia are two different things. A phobia is a persistent fear that is irrational and extreme. It is triggered when a person approaches a specific object or situation, or anticipates its approach. Fear is a reaction to an emotional or physical danger.
The major difference between fear and phobia is the anxiety. People with phobias experience a powerful anxiety that interferes with their ability to function or affects their quality of life. For example, while many people are afraid of spiders, only a few are physically or psychologically impaired by spiders.
People with phobias often spend a lot of time worrying about the object/situation they are afraid of and ensuring they avoid it. They go to extreme lengths to avoid the things they fear, which are more dangerous in their minds than in real life. When they are confronted by the cause of their phobia, they suffer a lot of distress which can lead to total panic or interfere with their normal functioning. Some people with phobias panic when they think about the sources of their phobias.
When a person starts organizing their life to avoid the object of their fear, they have a phobia. Phobias are a lot more serious than fears because the sufferers go to great lengths to steer clear of things that trigger their anxiety.
List of Phobias
No doubt about it, some phobias are more popular than others. They activate symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and breathlessness. Some cause full-blown panic attacks. This phobia list describes the most common phobias.
- Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders. This affects more women than men.
- Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes. Ascribed to cultural influences and evolutionary causes.
- Acrophobia – The fear of heights. Can cause severe panic attacks.
- Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces. Affects almost 7% of the world’s population.
- Agoraphobia – The fear of crowded or open spaces. Most people with this phobia avoid going out.
- Aerophobia – The fear of flying. Affects 6.5% of the world’s population.
- Mysophobia – The fear of germs. This phobia is related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
- Astraphobia – The fear of thunder and lightning. Most sufferers are children but the phobia can persist into adulthood.
- Cynophobia – The fear of dogs. Most sufferers are also afraid of cats.
- Social phobias – The fear of social situations. Individuals with these conditions avoid places and events that set off attacks.
- Thanatophobia – The fear of death. Though often extremely complicated can be emotionally paralyzing.
- Glossophobia – The fear of speaking in private or public. Common and not easily overcome but with help anything is possible.
- Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – The fear of long words. An uncommon phobia but still severe.
How to Treat Phobias
Many people with a phobia can reverse the condition by avoiding the source of their phobia. But it’s not always easy to avoid certain triggers – like flying. While most phobias can be cured, no single treatment works for all phobias. Sometimes, a blend of treatments is recommended. If you have a phobia, one or more of these treatments can help.
- Self-help techniques such as lifestyle changes, exposure therapy, or joining a self-help group.
- Medication – this is often used to treat the side effects of phobias like anxiety. Patients are given antidepressants, beta-blockers, and tranquilizers.
- Talking treatments such as psychotherapy, counseling, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping is a powerful tool for phobias.
- NLP or Neurolinguistic Programming is also another great tool.
- Homeopathy – Try Aconite or Arsenicum they’re known to help with fear and restlessness.
- Aromatherpy – Get an aroma diffuser and try some essential oils like lavender, orange, lemon or chamomile.
The key is to find what works for you rather than live your life in such discomfort that you miss out on all the joy that is available to experience! It may take experimenting with more than one so NEVER GIVE UP!!!