Introduction to Phobias
A phobia is an extreme fear of something that can be very debilitating. People can suffer from phobias of almost anything; e.g. objects, places, animals, feelings or situations.
What are Phobias?
A phobia is an extreme fear of something that can be very debilitating. People can suffer from phobias of almost anything; e.g. objects, places, animals, feelings or situations. There are two types of phobias, complex and simple. Simple phobias are based on a specific thing (e.g. spiders, heights, injections) whereas complex phobias are generally more disabling (e.g. agoraphobia – fear of open spaces, social phobia). Simple phobias can generally be managed by avoiding the thing that causes it whereas complex phobias affect your everyday life and prevent you from carrying out essential activities such as going to the shops. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder and symptoms usually arise upon contact with phobia source, however, some experience symptoms just thinking about the phobia source.
What causes Phobias?
A phobia can develop at any time and it is not always clear why they arise. Sometimes, a previous bad, stressful or frightening experience can instill a phobia.
Simple phobias usually develop in childhood through negative experiences but this is not always the case. Complex phobias are believed to be multifactorial (e.g. combination of genetic and environmental factor and experiences are responsible).
What are the symptoms of Phobias?
Symptoms that commonly arise upon contact or thought of a phobia include dizziness, shaking, sweating, increased heart rate and breathing rate, shortness of breath, nausea and pain in the chest. These symptoms can cause problems if people who suffer from complex phobias experience them every day. The symptoms are caused by the release of adrenaline which is linked to the ‘flight or fight’ evolutionary response, which occurs when a person believes they are in danger.
How are Phobias treated?
Most people manage their phobias and avoiding the thing (e.g. in simple phobias – spiders) and this can be enough to manage it. However, in complex phobias or severe simple phobias, specialist help may be sought. There is no guaranteed cure but there is a lot of assistance available which can improve the way you cope and could cure your phobia. Talking treatments with specialists are very effective as well as certain self-help techniques that your specialist can provide. Cognitive behaviour therapy aims to change the way you think and behave in response to certain situations.
Medications are not typically used in treating phobias, but in severe cases, your Doctor may prescribe drugs called antidepressants, beta-blockers and/or tranquilisers, alongside talking treatment and self-help.