Chronic Phobias – Fact File

Phobias are often linked with anxiety disorders and can have a large impact on an individuals day-to-day life. Today, we will look at some of the different types of phobias and the symptoms that often accompany them.

Types of Phobias

There are different types of phobias to be aware of:
– Specific Phobias: There are phobias of specific situations, objects and/or people. Some common phobias within this category are; animals, environmental fears (darkness, thunder storms and germs for example), situational (being in a crowded area), body-based fears (blood and/or vomit) and so on.
– Complex phobias: These include social phobias and agoraphobia. Which we will look at in more details.

Symptoms

  • Uncontrollable anxiety when thinking of or being exposed to or threatened with their fear.
  • Avoiding the source of their fear, regardless of how difficult or impractical this may be.
  • Unable to function when being exposed to or threatened with their fear.
  • Knowing that this fear is irrational, but not being able to control it.
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Breathlessness
  • Trembling
  • Hot flushes
  • Chest pains
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Social Phobia:

Having social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, can make the individual feel intense fear in social situations. In turn, this may lead to them trying to avoid these situations in the future, no matter how impractical this can be and how much of an impact this can have on their every day life.
Social phobia can also cause the individual to worry about the situation before, during and after it has occurred. This can be very exhausting and in some situations may lead to panic attacks.

Everyone feels anxious and/or worried in social situations from time to time. This is completely normal. However, social phobia can be highly overwhelming and the individual may find certain situations difficult; such as:

  • Talking in groups
  • Starting conversations
  • Public speaking
  • Talking on the phone
  • Meeting new people
  • Going shopping
  • Going to work

Feeling this way can have an impact on various areas of the individuals life. For example, it can affect their own self-esteem, make them feel extremely isolated, cause friendships and relationships to falter and can interfere with their work.

Agoraphobia:

This is a particular type of anxiety. It is when an individual is anxious about being in certain places and/or situations. Situations that may be hard to get out of; or where they may not be able to seek help if they were to have a panic attack. Some situations that they may fear are:

  • Being outside alone
  • Being in big, open spaces
  • Being in a crowd of people
  • Certain methods of travel (public transport, aeroplanes, trains etc)
  • Enclosed spaces, such as lifts / small shops

People with agoraphobia may find it hard to leave their house, as this is where they feel the most in control and safe. In severe cases, the individual may quit their job and refuse to see their friends and loved ones. They can become very closed off and isolated and may panic if/when someone knocks at their door.

Causes:

Panic disorders can sometimes be triggered after experiencing a panic attack. This is usually out of feat of having another one in future. However this is not always the case. Other negative experiences can also lead to panic disorders and phobias.

Treatments:

When phobias and panic disorders start to interfere with day-to-day life the individual may need to seek help in order to regain control. The most common treatments for phobias and panic disorders are talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and exposure therapies.

CBT looks at identifying the the fear and establishing your thoughts and behaviours when being exposed to such fear. It then looks at trying to help create a new way of thinking when it comes to that fear; think of this as rewiring the brain to think about the fear in a different, more positive way.

Exposure therapy gradually exposes you to the thing that you fear. This could be by reading about it and studying it, and slowly working your way up to physically facing the fear to try and overcome this.

Often talking therapies are accompanied with medication. In this case, the medications are likely to be antidepressants, tranquillisers and/or beta-blockers.

Resources

Mind Charity

NHS – Overview of Phobias

Addiction Rehab Treatment – Chronic Phobias: Types, Symptoms and Treatment

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