What Are Phobias and How Can You Deal With Them?

It is totally normal to feel scared, especially when confronted with situations or objects that you believe are a threat to your wellbeing. In fact,  having a healthy fear response can help you to make choices that will keep you safe.

However, in some cases, that fear can become out of proportion to the perceived threat, making your response irrational and overwhelming, such as refusing to go to a dentist, or entering a building when you know there is a spider. When this is the case, you are quite possibly suffering from a phobia. If you do think that you have an extreme fear of something, that far outweighs the threat that it poses, read on to find some tips that you may find helpful.

What Are Phobias and How Can You Deal With Them?

As we have established above, a phobia is a fear that by its nature is unreasonable and irrational. However, for the person with the phobia, it can so powerful that they avoid the object or situation that causes them so much fear. If forced to confront it, they may become extremely anxious and suffer physical symptoms such as feeling like they cannot breathe or having a panic attack. Many sufferers become anxious simply at the thought of the situation or object.

Common fears include situations such as small spaces and heights, natural phenomena such as storms or deep water, objects and animals such as snakes and spiders and medical or bodily related things such as visiting a dentist, blood, needles or being sick.

To define a phobia, the person needs to recognize that their response to something is excessive and unreasonable in some way. For example, it is normal to be wary of snakes, as there are some out there that can cause us harm, but someone who may refuse to leave the house or needs someone to check their house from top to bottom for snakes before they will enter, or someone who becomes distressed and upset at the mere thought of snakes has a fear which would be classed as a phobia.

The signs of a phobia

When people with a phobia come into contact with their feared situation or object, they may experience panic attacks or have symptoms of the flight-or-fight response, such as:
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling faint or light-headed
  • Struggle to breathe
  • Sweating

However, the anxiety and symptoms often vary according to the location and the nature of the stimulus. Someone who has arachnophobia - the fear of spiders - would more than likely be more distressed if they were up close to a large, moving spider than they would be if they were several feet away from a small, unmoving spider, although this is not always the case. Usually, the person with the phobia will try to avoid the stimulus that they fear as possible, to the extent that the avoidance can interfere with their life and cause a great deal of distress. For example, someone with a phobia of the dentist may avoid visiting the dentist to the point that their oral health suffers. if this is the case, ask 'what is cone beam imaging' to see if it something that your dental surgery offers - this is a minimally invasive way fo checking for any issues.

What causes phobias?

There has been a lot of research done to try and find the answer to this question, but no one knows for sure. However, there are a lot of theories. One of these is that humans are naturally predisposed to have fears of particular objects and situations that are potentially harmful - these include things like snakes, heights, and storms. It is also clear that phobias often develop after a traumatic experience of fright - a child (or adult) bitten by a rogue dog may then begin to fear all dogs.  Another theory is that fears can be learned from others and that people with phobias may already have an inherent tendency towards phobias and anxiety.

How to deal with a phobia

It all depends on how extreme a fear or phobia is. As our example above about the dentist states, if you have a fear, you can sometimes work with it to overcome it - looking at different ways to approach the situation. However, a severe phobia may not allow you to do that and requires a little bit more in-depth psychological work to enable you to face those fears. The only proven effective treatment of specific phobias is cognitive behavior therapy, particularly repeated confrontation with the object that is feared in a process known as exposure therapy.

The response to a feared object or situation is basically a false alarm. The reaction elicited is massively out of proportion to the actual threat that the object or situation presents. However, because the person with the phobia has a tendency to avoid the situation or the object, they will not learn that there is not as much to fear as they think. On an intellectual level, they probably do recognize this, but at an emotional level, they cannot. Because of this, the pattern is continually repeated - every time that they are reminded of whatever they fear, it triggers an almost automatic response, even if they know that it is unreasonable. If instead of running away from the situation or object, the person confronts it until the anxiety around it begins to diminish, they are taking the first steps in teaching themselves at an emotional level that there is not as much to fear as they think.

Exposure to the feared object or situation can be done in a gradual fashion, beginning with merely imagining it before coming gradually closer to it. While imagining it can be helpful, research has shown that the best way of dealing with a phobia is to be in exposure to the feared object or situation.



eZineInsider.com Health: What Are Phobias and How Can You Deal With Them?
What Are Phobias and How Can You Deal With Them?
eZineInsider.com Health
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