A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, it’s something that causes all kinds of overwhelming feelings and is often fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. They develop when the individual feels that whatever their phobia is will cause them an unrealistic sense of danger. If the fear of the phobia becomes severe and begins to take over the individuals life, they may begin to organise their life around it to make sure they’re avoiding what’s causing them the anxiety. 

They will change how they live, try to stay in as much and not socialise and it can cause a lot of distress and overwhelming amounts of anxiety and panic. A lot of the time, having a phobia is a lot more common then most people think. It”s not silly or stupid to have one, if you feel like worried to tell someone what you’re scared off, don’t be. If it’s causing you a lot of stress and upset, it’s something that needs to be looked at in order to help you overcome it. 

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As it is a type of anxiety disorder, many symptoms relate to having an anxiety disorder itself. You may not even experience any kind of symptoms until you actually come into close contact with the phobia. Symptoms vary from person to person, sometimes when they even think about the source of the phobia it will make them anxious and feel physically sick.

The physical symptoms may include nausea, panic attacks, struggling to breathe, trembling or shaking, upset stomach, excessive sweating, dizziness, lightheadedness and increased heart rate, hot flushes, a choking sensation, pain or tightness in the chest, feeling faint, dry mouth and sometimes palpitations. Often, some of the symptoms can be related to general anxiety which includes headaches and a racing heartbeat.

The psychological symptoms may include fear of losing control, a severe fear of dying and a fear of fainting.

Causes of phobias

Like many types of mental health disorders, there is not one significant cause but there a variety of reasons why certain phobias could be brought on.

These could be because the phobia is associated with a particular incident or even trauma, genetics can sometimes play a big part in why phobias appear and a phobia could be something that you developed as a child from your parent or sibling.

Sometimes, it can be that you suffer severely with anxiety any way that when you come to terms with the fact you’re frightened by something it distresses you a lot more. Perhaps, something like avoiding something that could result in a slight injury or avoiding going into the sea because you don’t know what’s there.

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Types of phobias

There are two different types of phobias, they go into their own category. There are specific or simple phobias and then there are complex phobias. If it’s a specific or simple phobia this tends to be focused on an object, animal, activity or a certain situation. Animal phobias, such as spiders, dogs or snakes, bodily phobias such as blood, vomit or the fear of having injections. Sexual phobias such as performance anxiety or the fear of getting an STI. It can also include fear of heights, deep water, germs, or even visiting the dentist.

Complex phobias, tend to be harder to cope with them simple phobias. They contain a harsh amount of fear or anxiety about a situation of a circumstance. The most common are agoraphobia which is a fear of open spaces, they may avoid being alone, being in a busy place or travelling on public transport.

Social phobia is commonly known as social anxiety, which centres around the feeling of anxiousness when placed in social situations. This could be a fear of speaking in front of people or embarrassing yourself. Another few common types of phobias include arachnophobia which is a fear of spiders and claustrophobia which is the fear of confined spaces.

See the full list of phobias here. 

Living with a phobia

Each phobia is different and affects the individual differently, one self-help tip may work well for others and not so good for other people. You might decide you want to do some self-help strategies on your own before you seek further help. If you were to take the route of getting help from a mental health specialist, the self-help programme would include lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy to overcome the fear and perhaps attending self-help groups.

You can help yourself by regular exercise to take your mind off it, eating regularly and eating healthy, getting enough sleep which is so important and doesn’t let your mind wander. Making sure to reduce the consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Try some relaxation techniques, to help you relax and have all control of your breathing and calm yourself down. Attending self-help groups may be really beneficial to you, it’s a useful way to meet others who suffer from the same thing and sharing how you all cope.

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Most of the time, someone who is suffering from a phobia doesn’t actually need treatment. The ability to avoid fear is enough to be able to control the problem and stop it from getting out of hand. Although, it’s not easy and it’s not always possible to avoid certain phobias. You may be asked to speak to a professional and ask them for advice in regards to treatment and how to cope.

Always make sure to reach out to someone, if you feel your phobia is taking over your life. Whether at first, you speak to a family member or friend. Then when you’re ready to seek professional help and see what your GP has to say about what treatment is best for you.

Some types of treatment may include talking therapies and medication. Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most common type of talking treatment. It can help you manage the problem by being able to change how you think and behave, it can be used in order to make sure that you’re dealing with your phobia in the best way. This may later lead to showing you pictures of your phobia or reading about it to slowly let you push through the fear.

Medication isn’t normally recommended to treat phobias because the talking therapies are effective on their own. Sometimes, medication is prescribed to treat the effects that you’re feeling and the anxiety as a whole. These can include, antidepressants which are used to help reduce anxiety,  tranquillisers on a short-term basis are used for similar uses to treat anxiety and beta-blockers which are used for treating cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart problems.

Getting help

It’s vital to get help as soon as you feel it’s beginning to take over your life and making you feel very stressed and anxious constantly. It’s not a nice feeling to have to go through life being terrified of that specific thing. It’s important to get help when you feel it’s getting too much to cope with on your own, it’s also important not to feel ashamed. Once, you’ve learnt how to manage it, you’ll be able to overcome the fear and live life normally.

If you’re looking for any online counselling or walk and talk therapy whether you’re a parent and you’re looking for your children. You yourself need it or you’re a student or anyone that is struggling at this time, then please do not hesitate to contact Becky. You can access contact details here. Check out the website for more information.

Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or visit their website.