Phobias

Phobias

Phobias

Aphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by extreme and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, or creature (usually insects) which is usually not dangerous. A person does not need to have direct contact with the thing they’re afraid of to experience symptoms. Even thinking about it can bring on anxiety or panic symptoms. This is called anticipatory anxiety.

Even though those who experience simple or specific phobias are often aware that these fears are irrational, they still encounter intense fear. For some, fears may only be triggered when in proximity, while for others, even the thought of being close is enough to bring on severe anxiety or a panic attack. Some people go to extreme lengths to avoid the triggers.

Because phobias can cause extreme anxiety, complications can occur and can cause significant impact on work, relationships, school, and more.

Symptoms of Phobias:

People who suffer from phobias can experience physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

Physical symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilation
  • “Churning” of the stomach
  • Blushing
  • Palpitations (an awareness of their heart beating faster than usual)
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Emotional and behavioral symptoms

  • Temporarily losing ability to focus
  • After a social event, taking time to replay events to spot imperfections in interactions with others
  • Fear that others will notice you are nervous or other “negatives”
  • Experiencing anxiety leading up to a feared event
  • Fear of being embarrassed by physical symptoms like trembling, shaky voice, sweating, or blushing

Types of Phobias:

Phobias can be broadly divided into two main groups:

  • Simple or specific phobias
  • Complex phobias

Simple or specific phobias
Simple or specific phobias usually show up during childhood or adolescence and may settle as they get older. Simple or specific phobias fixate on an object, creature, or situation.

  • Insect phobias — such as excessive fear of spiders or cockroaches
  • Environmental phobias — such as excessive fear of heights

Complex phobias

Complex phobias are more debilitating than simple or specific phobias, and they typically develop during adulthood. The two most common forms of complex phobias are agoraphobia — panic at the thought being helpless in any place other than home — and social phobia.

  • Agoraphobia People may think that individuals with agoraphobia are just shy, but these are two different things. Shy people normally still attend social events but may not talk to every person in the room whereas someone with phobias may not attend the event at all. For example, a person experiencing social phobia often describes an intense fear or anxiety of being publicly rejected, judged, or evaluated negatively, and it is not uncommon to see this contribute to depression and/or substance abuse.
  • Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder and revolves around feeling anxious in social situations. People who suffer from social phobia might be afraid of public speaking out of fear of embarrassment and humiliation.

    People with social phobias may have some of the following symptoms:

    • Feel that everyone is looking at them, thinking about them, or talking about them
    • Fear of eating in restaurants
    • Fear of using public bathrooms
    • Fear of talking on the phone
    • Fear of being judged for their handwriting
    • Fear of speaking in public
    • Experience severe embarrassment due to blushing
    • Place an exaggerated importance on being perfect, leaving no room for any imperfection

    The DMS-5 breaks this down to a further five types:

    1. Situational – Fear of being in particular situations like in school, an elevator, a tall building, a plane, an enclosed space
    2. Animal – Fear of spiders, dogs, snakes, insects, animals
    3. Blood / Injury – Fear of infection, seeing blood (in real life or in movies), injections, medical work, hospital visits
    4. Environmental – Darkness, thunderstorms, heights, water
    5. Other – Being alone, drowning, loud noises, choking

    Each phobia is assigned its own name. For example, fear of heights is called acrophobia, fear of spiders is called arachnophobia, and fear of enclosed spaces is called claustrophobia.

Treatment for Phobias:

The mainstay of treatment for phobias is psychotherapy.

The desired outcome from treatment is that the individual will learn new mechanisms to manage their feelings and thoughts which will help manage their reactions allowing them to live where they are no longer controlled by fear and anxiety and can enjoy an improved quality of life. Normally, the best results are accomplished when addressing one phobia at a time.

  • Graded exposure therapy – works by desensitizing a person to the source of their fear through repeated gradual and controlled exposure, thereby eventually changing their response to the trigger and the associated feelings, sensations, and thoughts. This allows them to live where they are no longer controlled by fear and anxiety and can enjoy an improved quality of life. Normally, the best results are accomplished when addressing one phobia at a time.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – works through combining other forms of therapy with exposure therapy to develop new ways to cope with and see the feared items, situations, or experiences. Through CBT, the individual will adopt a position of leadership over their thoughts and confidence in themselves, allowing themselves to no longer be subject to them.

Medications for Phobias 

Sedatives and beta blockers can be used in the short-term for specific situations such as public speaking or travelling by plane. A doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to target the anxiety experienced through exposure or thinking about exposure to the thing feared.

Typical medications prescribed include:

  • Sedatives – Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, so they should only be used by those who don’t have alcohol or drug dependence issues. With the right prescribed dosage, sedatives slow down brain functions, which causes relaxation.
  • Beta blockers – Overproduction of epinephrine or adrenaline can occur in people experiencing anxiety, and beta blockers can reduce or eliminate these symptoms. Beta blockers are generally considered safe, except in a number of cases where a person may already suffer from very low blood pressure, a very slow heart rate, low blood sugar, heart failure, or asthma.
 

Symptoms of Phobias:

People who suffer from phobias can experience physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

Physical symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilation
  • “Churning” of the stomach
  • Blushing
  • Palpitations (an awareness of their heart beating faster than usual)
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Emotional and behavioral symptoms

  • Temporarily losing ability to focus
  • After a social event, taking time to replay events to spot imperfections in interactions with others
  • Fear that others will notice you are nervous or other “negatives”
  • Experiencing anxiety leading up to a feared event
  • Fear of being embarrassed by physical symptoms like trembling, shaky voice, sweating, or blushing
 

Types of Phobias:

Phobias can be broadly divided into two main groups:

  • Simple or specific phobias
  • Complex phobias

Simple or specific phobias
Simple or specific phobias usually show up during childhood or adolescence and may settle as they get older. Simple or specific phobias fixate on an object, creature, or situation.

  • Insect phobias — such as excessive fear of spiders or cockroaches
  • Environmental phobias — such as excessive fear of heights

Complex phobias

Complex phobias are more debilitating than simple or specific phobias, and they typically develop during adulthood. The two most common forms of complex phobias are agoraphobia — panic at the thought being helpless in any place other than home — and social phobia.

  • Agoraphobia People may think that individuals with agoraphobia are just shy, but these are two different things. Shy people normally still attend social events but may not talk to every person in the room whereas someone with phobias may not attend the event at all. For example, a person experiencing social phobia often describes an intense fear or anxiety of being publicly rejected, judged, or evaluated negatively, and it is not uncommon to see this contribute to depression and/or substance abuse.
  • Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder and revolves around feeling anxious in social situations. People who suffer from social phobia might be afraid of public speaking out of fear of embarrassment and humiliation.

    People with social phobias may have some of the following symptoms:

    • Feel that everyone is looking at them, thinking about them, or talking about them
    • Fear of eating in restaurants
    • Fear of using public bathrooms
    • Fear of talking on the phone
    • Fear of being judged for their handwriting
    • Fear of speaking in public
    • Experience severe embarrassment due to blushing
    • Place an exaggerated importance on being perfect, leaving no room for any imperfection

    The DMS-5 breaks this down to a further five types:

    1. Situational – Fear of being in particular situations like in school, an elevator, a tall building, a plane, an enclosed space
    2. Animal – Fear of spiders, dogs, snakes, insects, animals
    3. Blood / Injury – Fear of infection, seeing blood (in real life or in movies), injections, medical work, hospital visits
    4. Environmental – Darkness, thunderstorms, heights, water
    5. Other – Being alone, drowning, loud noises, choking

    Each phobia is assigned its own name. For example, fear of heights is called acrophobia, fear of spiders is called arachnophobia, and fear of enclosed spaces is called claustrophobia.

 

Treatment for Phobias:

The mainstay of treatment for phobias is psychotherapy.

The desired outcome from treatment is that the individual will learn new mechanisms to manage their feelings and thoughts which will help manage their reactions allowing them to live where they are no longer controlled by fear and anxiety and can enjoy an improved quality of life. Normally, the best results are accomplished when addressing one phobia at a time.

  • Graded exposure therapy – works by desensitizing a person to the source of their fear through repeated gradual and controlled exposure, thereby eventually changing their response to the trigger and the associated feelings, sensations, and thoughts. This allows them to live where they are no longer controlled by fear and anxiety and can enjoy an improved quality of life. Normally, the best results are accomplished when addressing one phobia at a time.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – works through combining other forms of therapy with exposure therapy to develop new ways to cope with and see the feared items, situations, or experiences. Through CBT, the individual will adopt a position of leadership over their thoughts and confidence in themselves, allowing themselves to no longer be subject to them.
 

Phobia Medications

Sedatives and beta blockers can be used in the short-term for specific situations such as public speaking or travelling by plane. A doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to target the anxiety experienced through exposure or thinking about exposure to the thing feared.

Typical medications prescribed include:

  • Sedatives – Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, so they should only be used by those who don’t have alcohol or drug dependence issues. With the right prescribed dosage, sedatives slow down brain functions, which causes relaxation.
  • Beta blockers – Overproduction of epinephrine or adrenaline can occur in people experiencing anxiety, and beta blockers can reduce or eliminate these symptoms. Beta blockers are generally considered safe, except in a number of cases where a person may already suffer from very low blood pressure, a very slow heart rate, low blood sugar, heart failure, or asthma.