The term phobia is used by mental health professionals to refer to a group of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders that can be brought on by specific situations or objects. A phobia is described as an often unreasonable, and lasting sense of fear that is caused by the simply thought or presence of a particular situation or item that does not typically pose a legitimate threat. Usually, exposure to that particular situation or object will incite an immediate response in someone with a phobia, causing them to endure intense nerves, stress, and even panic attacks. Generally, the distress that is caused by the phobia can lead to a desire to avoid particular situations or objects, which can interfere in a person’s everyday life, and ability to function. Many adults who suffer with phobias do recognize that the thing they fear may not be dangerous, and that their reaction is unreasonable or excessive, yet they are not able to simply overcome it without help.
Common Forms of Phobia
There are various different types of phobia, which are usually characterised according to the object or situation that a particular individual fears. The most common forms of phobia include:
- Situational phobias, which arise as a fear of particular situations. For example, someone may experience a phobia regarding riding on public transportation, flying, walking over bridges, or being in a closed-in space such as an elevator.
- Animal phobias which include the fear of mice, insects, snakes, and dogs. Animal phobias are regarded to be the most common form of specific phobia.
- Injury, blood, or injection related phobias are fears of seeing blood, being injured or being exposed to invasive medical procedures such as injections or blood tests.
- Natural environment phobias occur when people have excessive fear responses to natural circumstances and occurrences, such as heights, storms, or water.
- Other fears such as anxiety surrounding loud sounds, a fear of bodily sensations, costumed characters, or clowns are also widely recognized.
Although some phobias develop early, during an individual’s childhood, many can also arise unexpectedly during adolescence or adulthood. In many cases, the onset of a phobia can be sudden, or arise as the result of an incident of PTSD, or traumatic events.
What Are The Symptoms of Phobias?
The most obvious and well-recognized symptom of any phobia is fear, however other symptoms may include:
- Avoiding the situation or object the phobia surrounds or forcing yourself to endure it under excessive amounts of stress
- Anticipatory anxiety which leads you to feel nervous ahead of the time you are expected to be within a certain situation or come into contact with the source of your phobia. For example, if you have a fear of tunnels, you may be anxious for weeks before you know you have to travel through one to get somewhere.
- Physical symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders such as excessive sweating, heart palpitations, light-headedness, problems with breathing, trembling or shaking, nausea or diarrhoea, numbness or tingling.
Children who are suffering from a phobia may express their anxiety by clinging to a parent, throwing a tantrum, or crying. Studies performed by the national institute of mental health suggest that approximately 8.7% of all adults over the age of eighteen suffer with some form of phobia in the United States.
Treatments for People Suffering with Phobias
Although the treatment often depends on the kind of phobia a person is suffering from, and how that phobia came about, many mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, agree that the most effective form of treatment when it comes to dealing with specific phobias, is behavioral therapy. However, other options may be considered for treating trauma and phobias caused by traumatic events. The most common forms of behavioral therapy which are used to treat phobias are exposure therapy and systematic desensitization.
Exposure therapy is a kind of behavioral therapy that focuses upon bringing an individual into contact with their fear in a controlled way. For example, a person who has a fear of spiders may be gradually exposed to them, first in the form of a photograph, then from a distance, then finally they may be asked to hold a tarantula. Systematic desensitization, on the other hand, focuses on relationship techniques that help to subdue the symptoms of general anxiety through progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing. To learn more about what can be done to treat, and overcome specific phobias, please call Creative Care today.