A phobia is an irrational and intense fear of certain activities, people or situations. Phobias are amongst the most common forms of anxiety disorders and rates tend to be slightly higher in females.
What are the different types of phobia?
Generally, phobias are split into three main types;
Social phobias – Sometimes known as social anxiety disorder. These are fears which involve other people or certain social situations. You may fear being embarrassed in some situations or performance anxiety may occur when engaging in other social experiences. These can be a general phobia, common to all social situations or a fear of a specific situation. One example is that of paruresis, in which sufferers find it hard to urinate when not in private.
Agoraphobia – This is a general fear of leaving your home or other ‘safe’ areas and is also a fear of developing panic attacks when in ‘non-safe’ places.
Specific phobias – These are phobias of a certain object or event. Common examples include dogs, escalators, water and flying.
The severity of phobia’s will differ greatly amongst individuals. Some may experience only mild feelings of anxiety and can manage to avoid their fears whilst others may experience panic attacks and other physical symptoms.
What are the treatments for phobias?
Phobias are commonly treated with a combination of therapies to address the psychological problems and, if needed, medication to combat the physical symptoms. Amongst the most popular therapies is exposure therapy. In this therapy you are gradually exposed to the subject or situation you fear in a controlled environment. Repeated exposure to gradually increasing levels of the object of your fears will result in a decrease in the overall anxiety felt towards it. An increased sense of control over the phobia is created and this is vital in treating the disorder. In addition to therapy some medications such as anti-anxiety or antidepressants may be prescribed to help combat the physical symptoms and anxiety that the phobia causes you.
In addition to these treatments there’s several ways you can use self-help to overcome your phobias.
Learning relaxation techniques – Meditation, muscle relaxation and deep breathing have all been shown to combat feelings of anxiety or panic. Through regular repetition of these techniques you can learn how to quickly calm yourself when facing your phobia.
Challenging your negative thoughts – Comparing your negative thoughts about your phobia to the reality of the situation can often help. When feeling at ease you may realise that the source of your fear actually poses very little threat to you.
Learning about phobias – It helps to know that you’re not alone, phobias are a common disorder and having one is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s also important to realise your phobia is very treatable and overcoming your fears is possible.