A phobia is an excessively irrational or unrealistic fear of an object, activity, creature or situation. It is persistent disorder in which an individual experiences an unreasonable fear of an object or situation. When confronted with the source of the phobia, a person might experience extreme distress and think it is dangerous enough to cause serious harm.
About 50 million people in the United States suffer from some type of anxiety. Depending on the severity of the condition, a sufferer might experience emotional pain and chronic stress even when there is no real threat. Persistent anxiety can evoke a very unusual experience in the brain. Subsequently, the body reacts with an atypical stress response to elude the made-up situation.
Different Types of Phobias:
Phobic disorders can be broadly classified into three major categories:
1. Social Anxiety Disorder
This condition is marked by an extreme fear of normal social situations. People with the disorder are constantly worried about being judged by others. They can go to great lengths to avoid routine social settings for the risk of being embarrassed or singled out.
Individuals suffering from agoraphobia are afraid of being trapped in a desperate and inescapable situation. Sufferers might dread the thought of traveling in trains or buses and avoid crowded places or tight spaces, such as cafes, shopping malls and movie theaters.
3. Specific Phobic Conditions
There are four different types of specific phobias:
- Medical – injections, the sight of blood, doctor visits or any other trigger
- Animal – the fear of snakes, spiders, rats or other species
- Environment – water, lightning, thunders, storms or other natural occurrences
- Situational – specific triggers, such as flying, heights, driving through a tunnel or an elevator ride
Symptoms of Phobic Disorders
Phobic symptoms typically occur upon exposure to the particular object or situation in question. Sometimes, even the thought of the object can trigger intense anxiety. Common symptoms associated with the condition include:
- Shortness of breath
- Anticipatory symptoms, such as extreme nervousness
- Panic attack symptoms, such as sweating, dizziness, heart pounding, numbness and trembling
- Fear of death
Depending on the patient’s specific condition and type of phobia, a combination of several treatment approaches might be recommended. The primary objective of treatment is to help the patient overcome his or her anxiety and live as normal a life as possible. Treatment might include one or more of the following:
- Self-help techniques, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet regimen
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, such as exposure therapy and systematic desensitization
- Hypnotherapy with guided relaxation and focused attention to achieve a heightened level of awareness
- Medications to reduce anticipatory symptoms or to treat clinical conditions, such as depression
In most cases, phobic conditions can be treated successfully with appropriate therapy, medications or both.