Phobia (from the Greek: phobos, “fear”)

shieldDefinition.

A phobia or morbid fear is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger.

There are many specific phobias. If you become anxious and extremely self-conscious, you could have a social phobia. Other common phobias involve tunnels, highway driving, water, flying,animals and blood.

Not all phobias need treatment, but if a phobia affects your daily life, therapy is available that can help you overcome your fears.

  • Panic and fear,
  • Rapid heartbeat,
  • Breathlessness,
  • Trembling,
  • A strong desire to get away.

Causes.

Much is still unknown about the actual cause of phobias. Studies seem to show a strong correlation between your own phobias and the phobias of your parents.br

However, children may learn phobias by observing a family member’s phobic reaction to an object or a situation, e.g. a fear of snakes or spiders.

Symptoms.

Phobias are divided into three main categories;

  • Specific phobias. These include a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).
  • Social phobia. More than just shyness, social phobia involves a combination of excessive self-consciousness and a fear of negative evaluation by others.
  • Fear of open spaces (agoraphobia). Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks.

No matter what type of phobia you have, it is likely to produce the following reactions:

  • A feeling of uncontrollable anxiety when you are exposed to the source of your fear.
  • The feeling that you must do everything possible to avoid what you fear.
  • The inability to function normally because of your anxiety.
  • Often, the knowledge that your fears are exaggerated but feeling powerless to control them.
  • Physical as well as psychological reactions, including sweating, rapid heartbeat, and feeling panicky.

Risk Factors.

Although some phobias seem to have a genetic component, it is often impossible to know who will develop them.

These factors, however, may increase your risk:

  • Your age. Social phobia usually develops early in life, between the ages of 11 and 15, and rarely after age 25.
  • Your sex. Phobias affect both sexes, but women and girls are twice as likely to have social phobia as men and boys.
  • Your family. If someone in your immediate family has a specific phobia, such as a fear of spiders or snakes, you are more likely to develop it, too.

Complications.

Having a phobia may cause other problems, including:

  • Social isolation.
  • Depression.
  • Substance abuse.

When to See a Therapist.

The prognosis for addictions is varied. Many factors are involved in determining whether a person can recover from an addiction, including:

  • The substance or activity to which a person is addicted
  • The reasons for the addiction
  • The length of time the addiction has existed
  • The persons desire to be cured of the addiction
  • The amount and type of support available to the addict

Importantly however, recovery is likely to be partial and temporary unless underlying issues that led to the addiction have been resolved.

Treatments.

Psychotherapy, counselling, and support groups help most people with phobias.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a more comprehensive form of therapy.
Desensitization, for example, if you’re afraid of flying, your therapy may progress from simply thinking about flying to looking at pictures of aeroplanes, etc.
You learn alternative beliefs about your fears and the impact they have on your life.

If you have unreasonable fears, consider getting psychological help. By dealing with your own fears, you will not pass them on to your children.

© 2012 – 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.

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