of Phobias • Signs
& Symptoms • Treatments
Fear is a natural reaction to danger. But
when your fears are so great that they disrupt your daily
life, you probably suffer from a phobia. Phobias can cause
overwhelming fear of animals, objects or social situations,
or the complete inability to deal with a given situation,
for no apparent reason. Sometimes phobias can cause fear so
intense it totally disables its victims.
Phobias are among the most common of all mental illnesses,
and they are usually the most successfully treated.
Types of Phobias
Phobias are divided into categories according
to the cause of the reaction and avoidance.
is the fear of being in situations in which a person cannot
get help or escape. Often this involves a fear of crossing
or being in open or public places, particularly if they
tend to be crowded. Some examples include stores, churches,
elevators or just a busy street.
with agoraphobia usually avoid the situations they fear,
sometimes to the extent that they do not leave their own
house except when accompanied by a family member or friend,
if they leave at all. This disorder can be highly detrimental
to normal day-to-day activities.
phobias cause people to dread being watched or humiliated
while doing something of a social nature. But it's much
more than "butterflies" in the stomach or simple
tension. Social phobias are irrational fears, and people
with the disorder usually avoid the situations they fear.
most common social phobia is the fear of being in front
of people, as in a speech or performance. But sometimes
the most normal or routine activities - eating a meal, writing
a check, even sexual relations - can be a source of fear.
Generally, agoraphobics fear and usually try to avoid situations
of interpersonal interactions. Like other anxiety disorders,
agoraphobia can be highly disabling.
phobias typically are fears of particular objects or situations.
The most common simple phobia is the fear of animals, like
dogs, snakes, mice and insects. Other common specific phobias
are fears of heights, fears of flying and fears of enclosed
specific phobias develop at childhood but eventually go
away on their own, like a fear of the dark. If a phobia
continues into adulthood, treatment is usually the only
solution. Like other phobias, specific phobias can keep
people from normal lives. But the level of disability is
usually determined by how often the object of the phobia
appears in a victim's life.
who suffer from phobias may display one or more of the following
or excessive worry, dread or terror involving an object
or situation that is otherwise harmless
complete and uncontrollable preoccupation with the fear
and the object of the fear
physical reactions to fear: racing heartbeat, sweating,
shortness of breath, shaking
overwhelming urge to flee the situation
with phobias are usually aware that their fears are unwarranted,
but they generally will flee from and go to great lengths
to avoid the object of their fears. When these behaviors interfere
with daily life, the person should seek treatment.
therapies are the most effective and among the most widely
used in treating phobias, particularly specific phobias. They
focus on changing specific actions and use several techniques
to stop negative behavior. One technique - exposure therapy
- involves exposing the patient to the feared object or situation
on either a gradual or direct basis, depending on the therapy.
By confronting the objects of fear, patients become desensitized
to them, and the phobic reactions are reduced or eliminated.
social phobia and agoraphobia, physicians may use cognitive-behavioral
therapy. In addition to confronting their fears, patients
learn to understand how their thinking patterns contribute
to their symptoms and how to change their thoughts to reduce
or prevent the symptoms.
are typically part of treatments for social phobia and agoraphobia.
Anti anxiety medications can reduce panic or anxiety in patients,
allowing them to confront their phobic situations.
patients respond well to treatment, and the success rates
among those who receive treatment are usually very high, allowing
patients to return to productive, fulfilling lives.