A phobia is the most severe type of fear which triggers one to go to great lengths so as to avoid the object of fear.
It's described as the extreme, irrational and often unreasonable fear of almost anything - from Pinaciphobia (fear of making lists) to phobophobia (fear of developing phobias).
There are more than a hundred phobias recognized so far and the list seems to be inexhaustible. The fear of number 13, of belly buttons, or of bananas may seem frivolous to someone, but their "owners" don't find it amusing at all. Drenched with sweat, their heart speeds up and the adrenaline's pumping through their veins, at the sheer thought of the fear object.
Imagine just one day in their life. They will avoid all the pleasures we take for an urge of avoiding distracting situations. They don't go for a walk, on holiday even to their work. It's really that frustrating. One little spider can ruin their 3 months planned vacation!
MAJOR TYPES OF PHOBIA
Even if there is no actual risk or danger, their irrational fear prevails their reasoning. That's why they often feel powerless and misunderstood. Phobias are the most common psychiatric disorder affecting nearly 10% of the world population.
Even though it seems that there are more phobias developed than actual objects of fear they are divided into 3 categories. Some patients suffer multiple phobias simultaneously and women are again a more likely target group. The ratio is 1:2 in favor of females.
1. SPECIFIC PHOBIA
There are four types of specific phobia:
Fear of natural environment: including fear of thunder and lightning(astraphobia), darkness ( nyctophobia), or water (aquaphobia).
Mutilation: including a fear of the dentist (dentophobia), blood, and needles(homophobia) or injections (trypanophobia).
Fear of animals: (alektorophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), and insects(entomophobia).
Situational fears: including flying(aviophobia), clowns (coulrophobia) and enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).
Fear of public places. The worst fear they experience is that they will not be able to escape quickly the threatening situations in public places and return to their safe zone again. So shopping malls or cinemas gave them a pretty rough time. That's why they rather choose to stay at home.
3. SOCIAL PHOBIA
Overwhelming and persistent fear of social interactions. It's based on their fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed in public. Their fear develops weeks ahead of the event they are going to participate in. They are also afraid of doing common things like eating and drinking in front of someone else.
CRITERIA FOR PHOBIA DIAGNOSIS
Unreasonable, Excessive Fear
Immediate Anxiety Response
The fear doesn't have to be recognized as irrational by a patient
Avoidance or Extreme Distress
Six Months of symptoms Duration
Not Caused by Another Disorder
The most common and disabling symptoms of phobia:
Increased heart rate
Shortness of breath
Inconsistent speech or numbness
High blood pressure
A choking sensation
A sense of impending catastrophe
Treatment of phobias can involve therapeutic techniques, medications, or a combination of both.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT)
CBT is the most commonly used therapeutic treatment. It involves exposure to the source of fear in a controlled environment. This treatment can reduce anxiety and help in recognizing stress triggers.
The therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts, dysfunctional beliefs, and negative reactions to the phobic situation.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help alleviate emotional and physical reactions to fear. Often, a combination of medication and CBT therapy is the most helpful one.
People with phobias are best understood by their closest friends and family members. Helping them to spot the difference between real and imagined fears is very helpful.
Genetic and environmental factors: Those who have close relatives suffering from a phobia or similar anxiety disorder are at a higher risk of developing phobias. If one's mom is afraid of spiders it's likely that a child will suffer from the same or similar phobia because he saw his mother's reaction to the creature in question. It's because children learn more from our behavior than from parental tutoring.
Medical conditions: People with ongoing health concerns often have phobias. There’s also a high incidence of people developing phobias after traumatic brain injuries.
Substance abuse: excessive use of alcohol and drugs.
Specific traumatic event: Like being exposed to a very aggressive dog in childhood.
PREPARING BEFORE VISITING PSYCHOLOGIST FOR SESSION
You can prepare three lists:
1. Symptoms: Make a list of physical and psychological symptoms, including your triggers, stress management, and things that make your anxiety relieve or increase.
2. Personal Life: Make a list of stressful events you are facing right now.
3. Medication and Supplements: Make a list of all medication and supplements you take regularly.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR THERAPIST
During your therapy session you should ask your therapist:
What treatment options do they recommend?
How can you best alleviate or even overcome other health conditions while in treatment?
How much improvement are you expect to see if following the recommended treatment?
People with a genetic predisposition to anxiety may be at high risk of developing a phobia. Age, socioeconomic status, and gender seem to be risk factors only for certain phobias. For example, women are more likely to have animal phobias. Children or people with low socioeconomic status are more likely to have social phobias. Men make up the majority of those with dentist and doctor phobias.