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Everyone is frightened of something. In fact, it is common for people to feel scared of different things, like spiders and heights; but there is a big difference between being scared and having a Phobia. A Phobia is an intense irrational fear of something that poses little or no threat. When we experience significant fear, our body prepares us by going into a state of ‘fight or flight’. This is helpful when a situation is dangerous. However, when someone has a Phobia, their body becomes confused between a “real” threat and a “perceived” threat. For example, it is helpful to anxiously react if a dangerous spider is close to you, but it is not helpful to panic if you see a harmless spider, like a huntsman or daddy long legs.
There are many different Phobias that people experience, including a fear of: specific animals, such as dogs and snakes; the natural environment, such as tight spaces and heights; blood, needles and injuries; and situational phobias, such as bridges and elevators. When your fear of such things is so intense that it interrupts your normal everyday functioning, you may be experiencing a Phobia.
What are the signs and symptoms of a Phobia?
- Avoidance. Do you actively avoid anything and everything to do with your Phobia? For example, if you have a fear of flying, you may turn down your dream holiday. Or, if you have a fear of the dentist, you may opt for putting up with the pain of a horrible toothache, rather than making an appointment.
- Physical signs. You may find when you are confronted with your Phobia, or even if you just talk about it, your heart races. You may start sweating, become lightheaded and hyperventilate. This is your body going into ‘fight or flight’ mode, as it perceives the situation is dangerous.
- Do you struggle with your emotions? Perhaps you feel overwhelmed with anxiety. You may often be on edge and find it difficult to relax. You may be aware that your fear is irrational, but not be able to control your reaction to your Phobia. This can lead to other feelings, such as frustration, anger and despair. Shame and embarrassment are also common feelings experienced by people with Phobias.
How does a Phobia affect me?
- Phobias affect relationships in a variety of ways. You may isolate yourself from friends and family, due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. Or, you may feel frustrated at others lack of understanding and end up arguing about your Phobia. Relationships may have ended over your Phobia. For example, if you have a Phobia of dogs, you may have ended a friendship, due to your friends’ companionship with their dog.
- Psychologically. Feeling flat and sad about how much your Phobia has impacted you. You may feel frustrated and angry at the loss of control in your life. You may also feel anxious and on “high alert” as a result of your Phobia. For example, if you have a Phobia of dogs, scanning the environment around you for dogs has probably become an automatic habit.
- Your daily routine may be disrupted. For example, if you are Phobic of germs, you probably spend excessive time washing and sanitising your hands. Or, if you have a Phobia of dogs, it is likely you avoid visiting places, like the beach or park.
- Unhealthy coping behaviours. Perhaps you excessively drink, to calm your nerves. Or, rely on drugs, particularly prescriptive medicine, to manage anxiety associated with your Phobia. For, example, you may have been prescribed Diazepam as a short-term solution, but find yourself now needing it all the time.
How can I treat my Phobia?
Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT) (including Exposure Therapy) and Self-help are the two main therapies that have been well researched to effectively treat Phobias.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
We are experienced and trained in treating Phobias. If you are experiencing a Phobia and would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.