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Fear is a necessity that protects us from dangerous situations and things. Being afraid of certain things is normal, but what if the fear starts to take control of your life and affects your regular activities? This excessive or irrational fear is a clinical condition known as phobia. It can be a subtype of anxiety disorder in some cases.
As per WHO (World Health Organisation), 3.6% of the world’s population experiences anxiety.Out of all the causal types, phobia is the most common.
When a person has a phobia, they experience an excessive fear about a specific thing. The source of that fear can be anything - a situation, person, or an object. Most of the time, phobias are considered as an abnormal condition due to the lack of awareness. Hence, people avoid seeking help from medical professionals.
Causes of Phobia
Phobias can be caused due to genetic and environmental factors.
- Children are prone to develop a certain phobia if they have a close family member with an anxiety disorder.
- Phobia could be the result of a distressing event, such as a near-death experience due to an accident or drowning.
- Certain environmental factors that could lead to phobia are exposure to extreme heights, confined spaces, or animal or insect bites.
- An ongoing medical or health condition
- Serious mental illness like schizophrenia leading to delusions, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Substance abuse and depression
Types of Phobia
Phobias can be categorized into three major types.
Specific Phobia: Also known as simple phobia, it is the most commonly occurring phobia in people. It can be defined as a fear of specific animals (like spiders, snakes), people (like dentists, doctors, clowns), environments (like high places or thunderstorms), or situations (like being on a train, plane). In many cases, these phobias have been known to be genetic and seem to run in families.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Earlier, social anxiety disorder was called social phobia. In social anxiety disorder, individuals develop an irrational fear of social situations where they may be judged, embarrassed, or humiliated by others. People with social anxiety disorder become anxious particularly when they are in a social setting involving unfamiliar people.
The phobia could discourage them from giving a lecture, perform at a concert, or deliver a business presentation, or it could be more generalized, where they might avoid social interactions altogether. They might stop eating in public or even use a public restroom. Individuals who used to be shy or solitary during their childhood or had unhappy or negative experiences as a child are more likely to develop this disorder.
Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia can be described as the fear of being in places or situations from which one can’t make a sudden escape. People with agoraphobia may avoid getting into a bus or train or going to a movie due to the fear of being trapped outside their home in large crowds. Hence, they prefer staying in their homes and completely avoid social situations.
What Happens If a Person Avoids Phobia Treatment?
When a person avoids phobia treatment, the fear surfaces more often and becomes intense and extremely dangerous. To escape their phobia, individuals may try to restrict themselves from facing the source of fear and isolate themselves from society.
The Outcome of Isolating from the Source of Fear
When people try to keep themselves out of the triggering situations, they might experience reduced completion daily tasks, inability to focus on personal/professional life, and preoccupied thinking about the fear. The preoccupied thinking may involve persistent dwelling upon what can happen, when it might happen, how it will affect me, am I safe, etc. This can lead to physical symptoms, such as
- Abnormal breathing
- Increased heartbeat
- Severe headache
What Does the Brain Experience during Phobia?
Several studies found that phobia is linked with the ‘amygdala’. It is a mass of grey matter in the brain that helps us feel and experience emotions. When the amygdala senses a threat or danger, it releases the "fight-or-flight" hormones which make the body and mind feel a surge in stress and energy levels.
To overcome a phobia, the safest way is to avail of the treatment options as soon as possible.
Phobia Treatment Options
Otherwise known as CBT, it is an effective phobia treatment that enables the individual to manage the symptoms. This therapy purely focuses on the individual's thinking, feeling, and acting pattern. Once the treatment process begins, the person slowly learns to control the discomforting feelings and negative thoughts.
This phobia therapy improves emotional connectivity with others. During this therapy, a group of individuals is made to sit together with a medical professional, where every individual shares their experience, battle , and story with a phobia. This helps other individuals observe, understand, and cope with their phobia. Most importantly, they develop good social bonding in the process.
This is a basic talk therapy, where the individual gets valuable inputs from the counsellor. In this therapy, the person obtains the knowledge required to deal with the illness. The treatment process gradually reduces the severity of the illness and promotes well-being, in a controlled manner.
Family involvement in the phobia treatment process can have a huge impact on the individual’s mental health. This may increase and develop one’s self-confidence, esteem, and a sense of belonging.
Medications are an effective and important phobia treatment option. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, tranquilizers, and beta-blockers to manage the symptoms of phobia. It is necessary that the doctor’s orders are strictly followed, especially when it comes to the duration and dosage of medication. These might have few side effects but work very well to manage phobia.
How to Avoid Phobia
Your doctor or other mania and phobia specialist may recommend making changes to your lifestyle and suggest certain strategies to support your treatment of phobia and manage the anxiety associated with specific phobias. Some of them include -
- Practice mindfulness. It can help you become better at tolerating your anxiety and you will eventually get rid of avoidance behaviours.
- Take some time out during the day to relax with deep breathing techniques, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Involve in regular physical activities and exercise. This helps to cope with anxiety and stress.
Phobia counselling can support you in overcoming your phobias effectively. You can also practice these strategies anytime you are being bothered by fear. The following tips can be beneficial in coping with your fear and anxieties even after your phobia treatment.
- One of the best ways to deal with your fear is to face it. You have to try not to run away from situations or experiences that you fear. Instead of avoiding your sources of fear completely, you can start to practice getting closer to them as frequently as you can. You can also ask for help from your family, friends, and therapists for this.
- To avoid making your symptoms worse, you can also consider joining a support group where people share their stories about how they managed to cope up with their phobias.
- Be your best friend and take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and try to be as active as you can during the day. Most importantly, celebrate your victories as they come along when you learn to overcome your fears.
Cadabam’s Hospitals is the best center in Bangalore, India for evidence-based treatments and therapies for individuals suffering from phobia. To book an appointment or for any queries, call us on our 24/7 helpline @ +91 97414 76476. You can also leave a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org