Phobias – Fact File

Phobias are irrational fears which can affect the day-to-day life of an individual. The person often recognises that their fears and behaviours are irrational, however, they are unable to control them and therefore they can have a large negative impact on their lives.

Although phobias are a form of anxiety, they are different from general anxiety disorders as they tend to be connected to something specific. People can develop phobias for anything at all; places, situations, animals or items. There is no definitive cause for the developing a phobia however they can occur after going through a traumatic experience, for example, being in a car accident could trigger a phobia of travelling, or fearing the road where the incident took place. The development of phobias could also be genetic.

Studies have shown that depression may also increase the likelihood of developing some form of phobia, as well as substance abuse.

Although phobias can be highly irrational and the individuals are often aware of that, there is nothing they can do to control their fears. However, people with phobias are very unlikely to fail a reality test. This means that despite having an irrational phobia, they are still able to think rationally in all other situations and have a good understanding of the world around them.

The most common and disabling symptom of a phobia is a panic attack. However, many people can still have a phobia without having panic attacks, this simply means that their phobia is acute.
Panic attacks can affect people in various ways, here are some of the symptoms:

  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Chest pain and/or tightening

You can read more about panic attacks here!

Billions of people across the world experience some form of phobia. I myself have a phobia of spiders.
For some people, phobias can be so extreme, that they interfere with their everyday life. Phobias can affect a person’s work life, their relationships, their studies and much more. For example, having agoraphobia means that the individual is scared of ‘open spaces’, this can be on a large scale, meaning that the individual very rarely leaves their home, it could be being frightened of places with large amounts of people, which can make the individual avoid socialising. These kinds of phobias can be very disabling.

There are forms of help and support out there for people who are struggling to live a full life due to having a phobia. If you feel as though your life is being restricted by your phobia, contact your doctor, or a medical professional to discuss forms of treatment.
Some people may be offered cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to change the individual’s way of thinking, helping them to evaluate the thing that they fear the most, looking at more positive ways of viewing their fear. There are other forms of therapy which aim to slowly introduce the individual to their fear, showing them that there is nothing to be afraid of, working out why they are scared in the first place and slowly overcoming such fears. There are also medications available to relieve anxiety symptoms.

Fears are common, they are nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel as though you need extra help or support in regards to a phobia, reach out and get the help that you need and deserve.

Here is a personal experience sent to us by Peter, about his phobia of the dentist:

My fear of the dentist started when I was about 18. I had always not liked the dentist, but it was something that I was forced to do. When I turned 18, it became something that I could avoid and so I exclaimed that it was too much for me and I would not be going anymore. Why was this? It was so scary for me, the fear of going there, having my mouth open and someone looking inside it and saying negative things were bad enough, but to have a drill in my mouth, no that was never going to happen.

This avoidance tactic seemed the only way forward and I forgot about the dentist for a good few years. It is important to bear in mind that even going past a dentist surgery would scare me, going inside one was a big no for me. It got to the point where I was checking my teeth every single day in the mirror and making things bad for myself by thinking things were wrong with them. This happened every day consistently and it was making me very sad.

It got to the point where I had to force myself to go and life has been so much better after a deep clean of my teeth, one small filling and I managed to get through it!

I just want to say thank you to Peter for sharing his experience with us. If anyone else would like to share their story, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Useful Resources:
HealthLine
NHS – Phobias
Mind Charity – Phobias

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