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Common Types of Phobias (And How to Treat Them)
It’s okay to feel afraid of some things or some people. Fear is an instinct borne out of past experiences, an unpleasant reaction to something distressing or dangerous. However, an unwarranted fear or an irrational panicky reaction can be a cause of concern. Psychologists label this as ‘phobia’ and explain how some people feel alarmed on contact with some object or reference to a place or situation.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains how this overwhelming feeling of dread can affect anyone at any time or place. Scientists at the APA have identified three phobia types which include – social phobias, agoraphobia, and specific phobias.
Types of Phobias (And Their Symptoms)
Not everyone feels afraid of the same reason, person, place, or circumstances. Unlike people diagnosed with anxiety problems who feel apprehensive irrespective of the reason, phobias are usually connected to a specific source. Depending on the source or situation that may trigger a nervous feeling or reaction, psychiatrists define phobia types as:
- Social phobia: As the name suggests, this kind of dread affects people in social settings only. People are diagnosed with this kind of phobia when they feel afraid of being singled out in social settings or judged by others for having opinions different from the people around in a social situation. This kind of fear, often misconstrued as shyness lends a more terrifying aspect as the fear of embarrassment may result in low self-esteem. Such people feel hassled while talking to new people and refrain from attending social gatherings.
The common symptoms that people with social phobia show include:
- Exaggerating minor issues into something major
- Feeling embarrassed while blushing
- Feeling of being watched all the time
- Fear of speaking in public or approaching someone in authority
- Avoiding using public restrooms or eating out
- Refraining from talking on the phone or writing in front of others
- Agoraphobia: The fear of being stuck or unable to escape is what defines the behavior of people with agoraphobia. People show extreme anxiousness and are more prone to panic attacks when stuck in a lift or have to spend some time outside the comfort and security of their homes.
This is a verycommon type of phobia that is often misunderstood as fear of open spaces though the same people may show similar levels of anxiety when confined to a small, limited space like an elevator or while using public transport. Studies have shown that women suffer more from this problem than men.
- Specific phobias: One cannot attribute any specific reason to this kind of unjustified fear of anything that appears relatively safe to others. The most interesting fact is that people afflicted with this kind of phobia realize that their fear is irrational but are unable to control their anxiety at the thought of being trapped in that situation.
This kind of fear is more common in women than in men. Some common examples include unfounded fear of certain animals and insects or driving a car, fear of heights or moving through tunnels or on bridges. These kinds of fearful instincts generally begin during adolescence and may continue till adulthood. People with these phobias tend to be very distressed and generally show the following symptoms:
- Feeling of impending danger
- Tendency to escape people or situations
- Abnormal breathing and rapid heartbeat
- Feeling of confusion and disorientation
- Unexplained sweating
- Sudden shaking of hands and legs
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling choked
- Abdominal discomfort followed by a tendency to throw up
- Sudden chills or heat flashes
Specific Phobia and Its Types
An assessment of the various emotional disorders and phobias details the types of specific phobias including:
- Animal types like fear of cats, dogs, and snakes
- Natural Environment types like fear of bridges, heights, tunnels, storms, or water
- Blood-Injection-Injury type like fear of seeing blood or undergoing blood tests or afraid of watching television programs showing medical procedures
- Situational type like fear of being stuck in an enclosed space
- Other type or the miscellaneous type like fear of being choked or vomiting or loud thudding sounds like that of a balloon or costumed characters
Social phobia and Agoraphobia are a bit complex and less easily recognized. The difficult part of suffering from these phobias is that those affected by them feel more vulnerable to situations that trigger these unwarranted fears such as leaving the house alone or being a part of a large crowd.
Common Types of Phobias
Surveys and investigations of people seeking treatment for their phobia problems list some common types of phobias. These include:
- Acrophobia – the fear of heights
- Aerophobia – the fear of flying
- Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders
- Astraphobia – the fear of lightning and thunder
- Autophobia – the fear of being alone
- Hemophobia – the fear of seeing blood
- Hydrophobia – the fear of water
- Ophidiophobia – the fear of reptiles like lizards, snakes, etc.
- Zoophobia – the fear of animals
Treatment for Phobias
Simple and common as they may sound, some of these types of phobias can be gut-wrenching as unexplained fear haunts them and may cause some of them to lose their lives. This is because phobias are not the same as simple childhood fears but have a deep-rooted, inexplicable aspect to them that must be explored before being treated.
It takes a lot of willpower and bravery on one’s part to get rid of their deep-seated fears though the same can be overcome with proper and regular treatment under the guidance of an experienced therapist. Psychologists maintain that therapies and medication are vital to overcoming any type of phobia.
Considering the irrationality behind most of these phobias that pervade the mind during childhood or adolescence and may continue till adulthood, psychologists treat them with the same seriousness as mental health problems. In most cases, mental health experts recommend behavioral therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for effective treatment and recovery.
Some others also advise exposure therapy wherein the patients are gradually exposed to situations that they fear the most. Getting used to the object you fear most has an adjusting effect on one’s feelings and response that helps in the gradual overcoming of the phobia.
Get Prepared before Counseling:
Make a note of the following particulars which could help in identifying the signs. Also, it helps the individual to prepare the questions to ask the medical professional. This can help the individual smoothen the process to overcome the phobia:
- Try to pin down all the related and unrelated symptoms that affect both physically and mentally.
- Consolidate what made the condition better and worse.
- Note down the situations which triggered anxiety or phobia.
- Note all the major stressors and events that happened recently.
- List down all the medications and supplements that you have taken before or are taking currently
Questions to Ask the Counselor:
- What causes the individual to develop a fear?
- What improvement should they make from the personal side?
- How can families help in improving the situation?
- What are the suggested treatment options?
- What are the side effects of the medication?
- What is the severity of their phobia?
Early identification and timely treatment can help in better management of the phobia and in improving the quality of life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional. For evidence-based treatment and therapies with an expert team of professionals, reach out to us.
Treat Your Phobia: Why Cadabam’s Hospitals
At Cadabam’s Hospitals, we have an experienced team of psychotherapists who specialize in dealing with patients with phobias. This excessive and irrational fear can be challenging to handle and treat. So, to help individuals, we outline tailored solutions to address their unique needs, requirements, and preferences. Our team adopts a personalized and friendly approach that underlines ‘care for you’ at the core.
Get the best-suited treatment for your phobia disorder. To know more about phobias or to book an appointment, call us at +91 97414 76476 or visit Cadabam’s Hospitals.
We are here to help!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are phobias mental disorders?
Yes, phobias are a type of mental disorder. More specifically, they are a type of anxiety disorder, which involves a strong and irrational fear of something. This fear, at times, can stretch to an extreme point that it affects the person’s physical movement.
2. Can phobias be cured?
Yes, almost every kind of phobia can be treated and cured. However, how long this treatment will take depends on the type of phobia and its severity. The self-exposure therapy helps, wherein the person faces what they fear. This, however, should be done following the advice of an expert. Moreover, a good psychotherapist by your side can make this treatment process much more effective and simpler.
3. How phobias affect your personality?
There are many ways phobias can affect your personality. It really depends on the type of phobia we’re dealing with. For instance, if you have a phobia of meeting people (anthropophobia), this can shape you into being an introvert and loner. This can further impact your personal and professional growth. So, if you indeed have any phobias, it’s important to seek proper treatment to offset any of its long-term effect on your personality.
4. Is phobia dangerous?
This depends on the type of phobia we’re talking about. For example, if you have fear of height (acrophobia), you can avoid heights. But if you have a fear of doctors (iatrophobia), this can be dangerous; if you ever need medical help, would you approach someone who you fear?! There are many such instances when phobias can be dangerous. This is especially true for people with existing health conditions, like heart disease.
5. Which phobia is the most common?
Fear of height, fear of insects, fear of meeting people, fear of flying, fear of dogs, fear of being alone, fear of public speaking, fear of enclosed spaces. These are some of the most common types of phobias.