Phobias are referred to a group of anxiety symptoms that are based on certain situations or objects. It has been reported that an estimated 5%-12% of Americans have phobias while 6.3 million people suffer from specific phobias. The United States report has mentioned that phobias generally appear in adolescence and adulthood, but can occur in people of all ages. Moreover, phobias are more common among women than men. Basically, phobias are classified into three main types such as, specific phobias, social phobias (social anxiety disorder), and agoraphobia. These are as mentioned below:
- Specific phobias– In this phobia type, people develop phobic reactions to activities like flying and traveling in enclosed spaces, and other situations like injection phobias, which involve a fear of being injured or seeing blood during blood tests or injections. Moreover, a person who has a threatening experience like an animal attack can also develop a specific phobia. Witnessing an accident can also be categorized as a specific phobia.
- Social phobias- Also known as social anxiety disorder, social phobia is fear of people and all kinds of social situations. Person suffering from social phobia try avoid doing public events, people interactions. Socially phobic people are self-conscious and are often afraid of facing situations in the fear of public humiliation and other’s reaction to their behavior.
- Agoraphobia– This phobia type involves the fear of an actual or anticipated situation. Agoraphobics are generally afraid of using public transportation, standing in lines or being in a crowd. They prefer avoiding congested places like lifts, shopping malls and theaters. Usually developed after a panic attack, these people feel comfortable only at home.
People change their way of living in order to avoid the feared object or situation. For example, various people feel nervous about flying, but they still go on a plane if they need to. Phobias may also affect and sometimes ruin relationships, work, career opportunities, and daily activities. Basically, the exact cause of phobias is unknown, but most appear to be associated with a traumatic experience.
Symptoms of specific phobias:
Phobias are emotional and sometimes physical reactions to feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia include the following:
- Excessive or irrational fear related to a particular object or situation
- Avoiding the object or situation with great distress
- Physical symptoms of anxiety or a panic attack or disorder are nausea or diarrhea, sweating, pounding heart, problems with breathing (shortness of breath), trembling or shaking, numbness or tingling, or feeling of choking.
- Symptoms of blood-injection-injury phobia are different from other phobias. In this type of phobia, people may experience fear and disgust after confronting the sight of blood or a needle. As in other phobias, people initially feel anxious as the heart rate increases. But, in this phobia type, the acceleration is followed by a quick drop in blood pressure and leads to nausea, dizziness, and fainting.
Basically, phobias are common and they don’t always cause considerable distress. But, to diagnose it, there are no particular lab tests. Instead, the diagnosis is based on a thorough clinical interview and diagnostic guidelines. To diagnose the condition and problem, the doctor will ask variegated questions from the patient that are related to the symptoms and take a medical, psychiatric and social history. After analyzing the situation, doctor will recommend the exact treatment or medication to the patient.
Treatment and medications:
Treating phobias is not an easy task, but the doctors or mental health providers may recommend medications or behavior therapy or both to treat phobias. It is a fact that most of the people do not get better on their own and may require some type of treatment and medication. Basically, the goal of phobia treatment is to reduce anxiety and fear and also to manage the reactions to the object or situation in a better way. Some of the treatment options and medications are mentioned below:
Medications are very handy in controlling anxiety and panic. Some of the common and effective medications are described below;
- Beta blockers- Beta blockers are medications that work by blocking the effects of adrenaline on your body. It works by elevating blood pressure, increasing heart rate, shaking voice and limbs that are caused by anxiety. Moreover, short-term use of beta blockers is more effective in decreasing the symptoms.
- Antidepressants- Antidepressants like selective Serotonin Seuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) play an important role in the treatment of phobias. These antidepressant medications act in reviving and influencing the mood.
- Exposure therapy- Mental health care professionals or expert doctors perform exposure therapy, in which he/she focuses on changing the response of the patient to the object or situation that causes the particular fear. In this therapy, the doctor helps the person by teaching him to conquer anxiety by exposing him to the cause of phobia. For example, if you’re afraid of elevators or lifts, then your therapist may advice you to get into an elevator in a gradual step-by-step procedure.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy– In this therapy, the therapist confronts the patient about the situation and fear by meeting him/her personally. This therapy helps the phobic patient in coping with the fear of mental and physical reactions.
Coping with Phobias:
People who experience anxiety disorders like panic disorder or phobias feel ashamed about their experiences because they connect their illness with their personality. The below mentioned steps help a person in coping and taking care of the triggers:
- Get help- Try to join self-help or support groups where you can connect with others and also share experiences about your personal struggles.
- Medication- Always have your medication on time, if prescribed because if you stop the taking the medications during treatment then you may face withdrawal symptoms.
- Take care- Taking proper care by getting enough rest or sleep, eating healthy food and physical exercises helps you in coping with the fear triggers.
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