A phobia can be described as an irrational and excessive reaction to fear. A person with a phobia will experience a deep sense of panic when they encounter a source of fear. This fear may be caused by an object, a situation, or a certain place. This fear is linked to something specific.
The effect of a phobia ranges from annoying to very disabling. A person with a phobia might realize that their fear is irrational but are not able to do much about it. Phobias can easily interfere with personal relationships, school, or work.
Phobias can be described as an unreasonable and overwhelming fear of situations or objects that are not dangerous. These objects and situations however may provoke avoidance and anxiety. Some phobias are short term such as the phobia a person experiences when taking a test or writing a speech.
Other phobias are long-lasting and trigger strong psychological and physical reactions and are likely to affect the way a person functions at work, in social settings, and even at school. Some specific phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. Some phobias need treatment while others don’t. However, if a person experiences a specific order that significantly affects their life, they should seek medical help.
Several therapies can help such a person to work through their fears and overcome them. These therapies are helpful because they might help a person to permanently overcome their fears and regain their quality of life.
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Specific phobias may be caused by environmental and genetic factors. For instance, a child whose close relative suffers from an anxiety disorder is at a higher risk of developing a phobia. Phobia can also be caused by distressing events and situations such as nearly drowning or being in a car accident. A person may also develop a phobia if they are exposed to extreme heights, certain animals and insects that bite, and confined spaces.
Some people with health concerns and certain medical conditions can develop phobias. For instance, people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries and depression are likely to develop phobias. Some cases of phobias are also linked to substance abuse.
The symptoms of phobias are different from those of mental illnesses like schizophrenia. For instance, people with schizophrenia will experience paranoia, delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and disorganized symptoms. On the other hand, people with phobias might be irrational but they are in touch with reality.
Panic attacks are the most common symptom of a phobia. A panic attack is characterized by:
A person with a phobia usually experiences an intense fear of a certain situation or object. This fear is usually persistent. However, this fear is out of proportion compared to the actual risk the object or situation poses.
There are different types of phobias. A person might have a specific phobia about multiple situations or objects. Some people may experience phobias along with anxiety disorders. Phobias can be classified according to fears of:
Every phobia has its name. Examples of names used to describe phobias are claustrophobia which is used to describe the fear of confined spaces and acrophobia which describes the fear of heights. Phobias are likely to trigger the following reactions;
They are in constant fear that they may experience a panic attack at a place they cannot escape. For instance, people with agoraphobia who have other health problems fear that they might experience a medical emergency in a place where they cannot get help or in a public area.
Social phobia might cause a person to go out of their way to avoid public and social situations.
Other types of phobias
It is common for people to dislike certain objects or situations. However, for them to be classified as a phobia, these situations or objects have to interfere with their daily lives. Additional common phobias include:
Some phobias may be seen as silly but that does not mean that they are not devastating to the people with them. Severe phobias usually interfere with a different aspects of the life of people. Such complications include:
Phobias are diagnosed based on diagnostic guidelines and thorough clinical interviews. During diagnosis, the doctor will enquire about the symptoms. go through the person’s social, medical, and psychiatric history.
The doctor will use the diagnostic criteria as is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Exposure therapy is known to be the best treatment for specific phobias. Exposure therapy is a form of psychotherapy. In some instances, the doctor may recommend medication or additional therapies.
Treatment of specific phobias focuses more on treating the avoidance behavior that a person develops over time and not on the cause of the phobia. The goal of treating specific phobias is to improve the quality of life of a person. This helps make sure that the person is not limited by their phobias.
Learning how to relate to and to better manage a person’s thoughts, feelings and reactions will help reduce the fear and anxiety and ensure that the two no longer control the life of a person. Treatment focuses on one phobia at a time.
For instance, for a person who is afraid of elevators, therapy may progress from thinking about getting into them, to looking at images of elevators, to going near them and to getting into them.
The patient learns different beliefs about their bodily sensations and fears in addition to their impact on their life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims at helping the person to learn how to develop a sense of confidence and mastery with their feelings and thoughts instead of being overwhelmed by them.
In the treatment of specific phobias, medications are used for short-term use or during the initial treatment. Medication may also be used during situations that are not frequently encountered such as public speaking, going through an MRI procedure, or when flying on a plane.
People with specific phobias should get psychological help, especially those with children. In some cases, genetics contribute to the development of certain phobias. Specific phobias are also caused by repeating someone else’s phobic reactions.
Parents should deal with their fears to teach their children resiliency skills and encourage them to deal with theirs. Children often fear being left alone, some fear monsters and the darkness. Normally, they outgrow them before they become adolescents.
However, if these or other fears persist and interfere with their lives, the parent needs to talk to the child’s doctor.
Lifestyle and home remedies for specific phobias
It is important to ask the doctor about lifestyle changes and strategies that can help manage the anxiety that comes with specific phobias. For instance:
Coping and support
Important steps a person can take to manage or overcome their phobia include:
How to help children cope with fears
Parents can do the following to help their children deal with their fears:
If parents notice that their child’s fear is persistent, excessive, and interferes with their daily life, they should talk to the child’s doctor. The doctor will advise them on whether there is a need for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Excessive and unreasonable fear can be annoying. For example, excessive fear of driving on the freeway or taking an elevator can force a person to take the stairs and take the long way to work respectively.
Fears are not considered phobias unless they interfere with the daily life of a person. If you experience fears that affect how you function in social situations, school, or work, it is important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional for professional diagnosis and treatment.
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