A phobia refers to certain kind of anxiety symptoms which is triggered by certain objects or situations. A specific phobia or simple phobia is a lasting and very unreasonable fear caused by the presence or just by thought of a specific object/situation. The object or situation in reality poses very little danger.
Because of the distress associated with a phobia the person feels a need to avoid the object or the situation. This in turn affects the person ability to function normally in daily life. Adults with specific phobia very soon realize that their fear is not reasonable, yet they are unable to overcome the fear.
Kinds of phobias
There are different kinds of phobias based on the specific object or situation that causes it.
Animal phobias: Fear of dogs, snakes, insects or mice is the example of common specific phobia associated with animals.
Situational phobias: This involves specific situation like fear of flying, riding a car, driving, crosing a bridge, being in closed spaces, using an elevator etc.
Environmental phobias: Many people have fear of natural forces like fear of storms, high sea waves, high mountains or just water bodies.
Injection phobias: A very common but specific phobia is the fear of injection among children as well as adults. People may also have phobia about seeing blood, about surgery, blood tests and injections.
Some other phobias: The fear of falling down, fear of loud sounds and visual phobias like seeing people in masks or fear of clowns in a circus.
What are the symptoms of specific phobias?
General symptoms of any specific phobia may include:
- Excessive or irrational fear about a object/life situation
- Continuously avoiding the object or situation or sometimes enduring it with distress
- Physical symptoms of a panic attack include pounding heart, nausea, diarrhoea, sweating, trembling, shaking, numbness or tingling in the extremities, breathing problems, dizziness and at time a feeling of chocking.
- An anticipatory anxiety, which means a person getting phobia even before they see the object or experience the situation. For example a person with phobia for dogs will feel nervous about going for a morning walk.
When do phobias first appear?
Phobias usually first appear or a person will realize about is during adolescence. But it can occur anytime irrespective of age. Phobias are more common in women than in men. Only 20% of phobias will go away, like childhood phobias but the remaining will need proper treatment.
What causes phobias?
The exact reason for the onset of a phobia is not known but mostly phobias occur due to a traumatic experience or learned reaction to a object or situation. For example a frightening experience with an animal, like a dog bite, can develop into specific phobia for dogs. Witnessing a traumatic event in which others experience harm or fear can also cause phobias.
What are the treatments?
Specific phobias are treated using certain individual methods or a combination of them.
- Cognitive behavioural theory: Treatment involves exposure and response prevention therapy, in which patients gradually are expose to what frightens them until the fear begins to fade.
- Certain medications and relaxing techniques like breathing exercises are also found to be very effective.