The dictionary meaning of phobia is - "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something." It's not uncommon to find the word phobia appear quite loosely in popular culture to the point of sounding like a cliche and at times undermining the relevance of its true meaning. The term phobia is related to symptoms induced due to anxiety brought on by particular objects or situations.
Here are three fundamental questions regarding specific phobias you might have wanted to ask.
1) What is a Specific Phobia?
Specific phobia, formerly known as simple phobia, relates to an irrational, unreasonable fear of a particular object or a situation that generally is neither harmful nor dangerous. However, being exposed to these situations or things can result in an extreme and immediate reaction full of fear, nervousness and anxiety.
People who experience these severe reactions are highly likely to avoid those objects and situations, significantly altering their functioning and impacting their life. Specific phobias come in different types - for instance, phobia related to animals where people fear snakes, insects, dogs etc. An animal phobia is one of the most common types of specific phobia. Another type of phobia is linked to situations like being in an elevator, being in a car or public transport, fear of travelling by air or going in tunnels or over bridges. There are also phobias relating to natural environments and disasters like storms, heights, or water. Additionally, some people can have an unreasonable fear of injections, blood or anything to do with hospitals and doctors. Finally, other phobias relate to fear of loud sounds, falling, or costumed characters like a clown.
2) What are the Symptoms of Specific Phobias?
The most apparent symptom relating to specific phobia is the unreasonable or irrational fear of the object or situation itself. Avoidance or enduring the feared object or situation with great distress is another commonly found symptom of this condition. The physical manifestation of this condition often results in panic attacks with increased heart rate, pounding, sweating, nausea and/or feeling numb. Additionally, one can also experience shaking, difficulty in breathing, feeling dizzy or experiencing choking.
Furthermore, symptoms associated with specific phobia can result in anticipatory anxiety. In other words, a person can start to feel nervous and anxious ahead of time regarding facing particular situations or coming into contact with certain objects. It's not uncommon to find children with a specific phobia to throw a tantrum, cling to parents, have a crying fit as a way of expressing their fear and anxiety.
3) How are Specific Phobias Treated?
The prognosis for treatment of specific phobias is highly encouraging. Some of the most well-known treatments for phobias that have yielded successful results are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This technique successfully treats phobias, panic attacks, and general and social anxiety. It focuses on everyday experience and targets your emotional thinking and negative beliefs. It then teaches you to assess and replace them with more rational thought or action.
Exposure Therapy: This therapy is based on the concept that if you are fearful of something, the most effective way to overcome it is to face it head-on. The therapist, bit by bit, will introduce you to objects or situations that result in anxiety. This generally occurs with the help of a method known as "systematic desensitization," - which consists of three actions. Relax -The therapist will help you learn relaxation techniques to counter your anxiety. They are deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery. List - Write or create a list of anxiety-provoking triggers, ranking them in order of intensity. Expose - In this last step, you will work on your anxiety-inducing situations or objects, using relaxation methods when needed.
Thankfully, we have effective treatments for phobias and you no longer have to live in fear. With the right help and a trained therapist, you can not only start to feel better but also you can live your life again - one that is devoid of constant dread and duress.
"Don't let your struggle become your identity." Take that first step towards hope.
If you're looking for a therapist near Sherwood Park for anxiety and stress counselling, Ward & Associates Psychological Services is here for you. We specialize in individual counselling for adults, teens, and children and couples counselling and trauma counselling for first responders. We also offer online therapy for clients residing in Alberta. Contact us to learn more about our services or to book an appointment.