A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to feel extreme, irrational fear of a situation, a living being, a place, or an object.
When a person has a phobia, they often shape their life to avoid what they consider dangerous. The imaginary threat is greater than any actual threat posed by the cause of the terror.
Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders.
The person will experience severe stress when confronted with the source of their phobia. This can prevent them from functioning normally and sometimes leads to panic attacks.
In the United States, approximately 19 million people have phobias.
What is a phobia?
A phobia is an exaggerated and irrational fear.
The term “phobia” is often used to refer to fear of a particular trigger. However, there are three types of phobias that are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This includes:
Specific phobia: This is an intense, irrational fear of a particular trigger.
Social phobia or social anxiety: This is a deep fear of public humiliation and of being singled out or judged by others in a social situation. The idea of big social gatherings is terrifying for someone with social anxiety. It is not the same as shyness.
Agoraphobia: This is a fear of situations from which it would be difficult to escape if a person were to experience extreme panic, such as in an elevator or outside the home. It is often misunderstood as a fear of open spaces, but can also apply to confinement to small spaces such as an elevator or public transportation. People with agoraphobia have an increased risk of panic disorder.
Specific phobias are known as simple phobias because they can be linked to an identifiable cause that may not be common in an individual’s daily life, such as snakes. It is therefore unlikely that they will significantly affect daily life.
Social anxiety and agoraphobia are referred to as complex phobias because their triggers are less easy to recognize. People with complex phobias may also find it more difficult to avoid triggers such as leaving home or being in a large crowd of people.
A phobia becomes diagnosable when a person begins to organize their life in a way that avoids the cause of their anxiety. It is more serious than a normal anxiety response. People with a phobia have an overwhelming need to avoid anything that triggers their anxiety.
A person with a phobia has the following symptoms. They are common in most phobias:
- a feeling of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of anxiety
- A feeling that the source of this anxiety must be avoided at all costs
- Not being able to function properly when exposed to the trigger
- Recognition that anxiety is irrational, unreasonable and excessive, combined with an inability to control feelings
A person is likely to experience feelings of panic and intense anxiety when exposed to the object of their phobia. The physical effects of these sensations may include:
- abnormal breathing
- accelerated heartbeat
- hot flashes or chills
- feeling of suffocation
- chest pain or tightness
- butterflies in the stomach
- needles and needles
- Mouth confusion and disorientation
A sense of anxiety can be created simply by thinking about the object of the phobia. In the case of younger children, parents may observe them crying, becoming very affectionate, or trying to hide behind the legs of a parent or an object. They may also throw tantrums to show their distress.
A complex phobia is much more likely to affect a person’s well-being than a specific phobia.
For example, those who suffer from agoraphobia may also have a number of other phobias that are linked together. These include monophobia, or the fear of being left alone, and claustrophobia, the fear of feeling trapped in enclosed spaces.
In severe cases, a person with agoraphobia rarely leaves home.
The most common specific phobias in the USA include:
- Claustrophobia: fear of confined, confined spaces
- Aerophobia: fear of flying
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Driving phobia: fear of driving
- Emetophobia: fear of vomiting
- Erythrophobia: fear of blushing
- Hypochondria: fear of illness
- Zoophobia: fear of animals
- Aquaphobia: fear of water
- Acrophobia: fear of heights
- Blood, injury and injection phobia (BII): fear of blood injuries
- Escalaphobia: fear of escalators
- Tunnel phobia: fear of tunnels
That is far from the only specific phobias. In particular, people can develop phobia in almost all cases. As society changes, so does the list of potential phobias. Nomophobia, for example, is the fear of being without a cell phone or a computer.
As described in an article, it is “the pathological fear of not having contact with technology.”
It is unusual for a phobia to begin after age 30, and most begin in early childhood, teens, or early adulthood.
They can be caused by a stressful experience, a frightening event, or a parent or household member with a phobia that a child can “learn.”
These usually develop before the age of 4 to 8 years. In some cases, it may be the result of an early traumatic experience. An example would be claustrophobia, which develops over time after a younger child has had an unpleasant experience in a confined space.
Phobias that begin in childhood can also be caused by observing a family member’s phobia. A child whose mother has arachnophobia, for example, is much more likely to develop the same phobia.
More research is needed to confirm exactly why a person develops agoraphobia or social anxiety. Researchers currently believe that complex phobias are caused by a combination of life experiences, brain chemistry, and genetics.
They can also be an echo of the habits of early people left over from an era when open spaces and unknown people in general posed a far greater threat to personal safety than in today’s world.
How the brain works during a phobia
Some areas of the brain memorize and remember dangerous or potentially fatal events.
When a person is faced with a similar event later in life, these areas of the brain recall stressful memory, sometimes more than once. This causes the body to experience the same reaction.
In a phobia, the areas of the brain that deal with anxiety and stress repeatedly call off the frightening event inappropriately.
Researchers have found that phobias are often associated with the amygdala, which lies behind the pituitary gland in the brain. The amygdala can trigger the release of “fight or flight” hormones. These put body and mind in an alert and stressed state.
Phobias are well treatable, and people who have them are almost always aware of their disorder. This helps a lot with the diagnosis.
Talking to a psychologist or psychiatrist is a useful first step in treating an already identified phobia.
If the phobia isn’t causing serious problems, most people find that simply avoiding the source of their anxiety helps them stay in control. Many people with specific phobias will not seek treatment, as these fears are often manageable.
It is not possible to avoid the triggers of some phobias, as is often the case with complex phobias. In these cases, talking to a mental health professional can be the first step towards recovery.
Most phobias can be cured with appropriate treatment. There is no single treatment that works for every person with a phobia. The treatment must be tailored to the individual in order for it to work.
The doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist may recommend behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both. The therapy aims to reduce anxiety and anxiety symptoms and help people manage their reactions to the object of their phobia.
The following drugs are effective in treating phobias.
These can help reduce the physical signs of anxiety that can accompany a phobia.
Side effects may include indigestion, fatigue, insomnia, and cold fingers.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to people with phobias. They influence serotonin levels in the brain, which can lead to better moods.
SSRIs can initially cause nausea, difficulty sleeping, and headaches.
If the SSRI doesn’t work, the doctor may prescribe a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) for social phobia. People who receive an MAOI may need to avoid certain types of foods. Side effects may initially include dizziness, upset stomach, agitation, headache, and insomnia.
It has also been found that taking a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) such as clomipramine or anafranil helps the symptoms of the phobia. Initial side effects may include drowsiness, blurred vision, constipation, difficulty urinating, irregular heartbeat, dry mouth and trembling.
Benzodiazepines are an example of a tranquilizer that could be prescribed for a phobia. These can help reduce anxiety symptoms. People with a history of alcohol addiction should not be given sedatives.
In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased its warning about benzodiazepines. The use of these medications may result in physical dependence, and withdrawal may be life-threatening. The combination with alcohol, opioids, and other substances can lead to death. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions when taking these medications.
There are a number of therapeutic options for treating a phobia.
desensitization or exposure therapy
Dies kann Menschen mit einer Phobie helfen, ihre Reaktion auf die Quelle der Angst zu ändern. Sie sind in einer Reihe eskalierender Schritte allmählich der Ursache ihrer Phobie ausgesetzt. Zum Beispiel kann eine Person mit Aerophobie oder Angst, in einem Flugzeug zu fliegen, unter Anleitung die folgenden Schritte ausführen:
- Sie wird zuerst über das Fliegen nachdenken.
- Der Therapeut wird sie sich Bilder von Flugzeugen ansehen lassen.
- Die Person wird zu einem Flughafen gehen.
- Sie werden weiter eskalieren, indem sie in einer praxissimulierten Flugzeugkabine sitzen.
- Schließlich steigen sie in ein Flugzeug.
Kognitive Verhaltenstherapie (CBT)
The doctor, therapist, or counselor helps the person with a phobia learn different ways to understand and respond to the source of their phobia. This can make coping easier. Most importantly, CBT can teach a person suffering from phobia to control their own feelings and thoughts.
können für eine Person eine Quelle echter und anhaltender Not sein. Sie sind jedoch in den meisten Fällen behandelbar, und sehr oft ist die Quelle der Angst vermeidbar.
Wenn Sie eine Phobie haben, sollten Sie niemals Angst haben, Hilfe zu suchen. Die Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) bietet eine nützliche Ressource für die Suche nach einem Therapeuten. Sie bieten auch eine Reihe von Vorträgen darüber, wie bestimmte Phobien überwunden werden können.