What is a Phobia?
A phobia is usually an irrational fear of either an object or situations. A common symptom when faced with a phobia is that of extreme panic, usually a sufferer will go to great lengths to avoid facing their fear. Over 10 million people in the UK are thought to live with a phobia. Phobia’s can affect people of any age, sex, and socioeconomic status. However, a much higher percentage of women suffer from phobias than men.
‘Normal’ Fear vs. Phobias
It is normal and even helpful to experience fear in dangerous situations. Fear is an adaptive human response. It serves a protective purpose, activating the automatic “fight-or-flight” response. With our bodies and minds alert and ready for action, we are able to respond quickly and protect ourselves.
But with phobias the threat is greatly exaggerated or nonexistent. For example, it is only natural to be afraid of a snarling Rottweiler, but it is irrational to be terrified of a friendly pug on a leash, as you might be if you have a dog phobia.
Common Types of Phobias or Fears
There are four general types of phobias and fears:
- Animal phobias. Examples include fear of snakes, fear of spiders, fear of rodents, and fear of dogs.
- Natural environment phobias. Examples include fear of heights, fear of storms, fear of water, and fear of the dark.
- Situational phobias (fears triggered by a specific situation). Examples include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of tunnels, and fear of bridges.
- Blood-Injection-Injury phobia. The fear of blood, fear or injury, or a fear of needles or other medical procedures.
Some phobias don’t fall into one of the four common categories. Such phobias include fear of choking, fear of getting a disease such as cancer, and fear of clowns.
Social Phobia and Agoraphobia are known as complex phobias. They are linked to a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about certain situations, incidents or circumstances, which make them much more disabling than simple phobias – please click for further information.
Common Causes for Specific (simple) Phobias
It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of 30; most phobias begin during early childhood, teenage years or early adulthood. Although there doesn’t seem to be one particular cause of phobias, there are several factors that might play a role.
- For some the phobia can be linked to a stressful situation or frightening event; for example, a child who experiences a lot of turbulence on a plane might develop a phobia about flying.
- Phobias can be learned responses, picked up in early life – you might develop the same specific phobia as a parent or older sibling (Phobias picked up from parents are learned fears – they are not genetically inherited.) It has also been shown that factors in the family environment, such as parents who are very worried or anxious, can have an effect on the way you cope with anxiety in later life.
- There is also some evidence that genetics can play a role – some people appear to be born with a tendency to be more anxious than others.
Signs and Symptoms of Phobias
The symptoms of a phobia can range from mild feelings of apprehension and anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. Typically, the closer you are to the thing you’re afraid of, the greater your fear will be. Your fear will also be higher if escaping is difficult.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of a Phobia
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing or pounding heart
- Chest pain or tightness
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- A churning stomach
- Hot or cold flashes; tingling sensations
Emotional Signs and Symptoms of a Phobia
- Feeling of overwhelming anxiety or panic
- Feeling an intense need to escape
- Feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Feeling like you’re going to die or pass out
- Knowing that you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control your fear
How Talking to Siobhan Can Help
Through cognitive behaviour therapy Siobhan will
- Help you to understand the root causes of your fears and phobias
- Examine the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that contribute to your fears
- Assist in identifying anxiety triggers
- Rationalise your thinking and
- Support and assist an appropriately paced exposure to the feared situation or object.