Everyone knows that everyone is afraid of something. Everyone recognizes that phobias are not something to be ashamed of, and that everyone has at least one. But what exactly is a phobia? Simply put, it’s an anxiety disorder.
The exact definition of a phobia is a bit different though. A phobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person will experience a strong, irrational fear of a situation, object, or activity. Adults with fears usually realize they are being irrational, but children are the opposite. A phobia will produce a feeling of anxiety that will range anywhere from mild, to downright severe. People with mild symptoms don’t usually worry about it too much because it doesn’t interfere with their day to day activities. People with a severe phobia, however, sometimes have no choice than to seek help. Some phobias, if left un-dealt with, can become so severe that the person won’t even leave their bed.
There are three main types of phobias. The first is Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places. With this fear comes the feeling that the person is trapped or fears having a panic attack in public. The second type of phobia is Social phobia. Social phobia is the fear of social situations or performing in public. When people have this fear, they may be embarrassed by symptoms of having a panic attack or anxiety. A good example of this type of phobia is people who don’t like public speaking. This would be due to mild social phobia (or major, depending how badly you hate it). The final category of phobia is a Specific phobia. This is a very broad category and covers many things. The basic definition of it is it’s the fear of specific objects, places, situations, or activities. The fear is usually driven by fear of harms way. Someone who is experiencing this may get some side affects of losing any emotional control, and possibly even physical control.
Phobias are very common. Nearly 25 million people suffer from a serious phobia sometime in their life. Agoraphobia is the most common type of phobia. Around 60% of people who seek help for phobias are there for agoraphobia. 50% of the people who get treated for this are women. Social phobia occurs in both men and women about equally. It occurs is about 2% of the population. When it comes to specific phobias, they are usually outgrown by adulthood. Specific phobias usually tend to be in just children.
Each of the three main phobia categories has some risk involved with it. In agoraphobia, it is very common for the individual to have panic disorders. Its also been speculated that agoraphobia may be something that tends to run in the family. Studies show that over half of the patients with agoraphobia have had someone else in their family with it too.
When it comes to Social phobia, a lot of experts think it has a direct link to alcoholism. Individuals who have social phobia, often deal with a lot of stress. These high stress factors are said to create an increased risk for abusing alcohol. People with social phobia often become depressed and sometimes lose a lot of self esteem. These are both factors that alcohol plays off of, so it is highly recommended that people with social phobia don’t drink alcohol.
People with specific phobias usually get them from a frightening experience or witnessing a traumatic event. This is the reason that it is normally found in children, because a child is much more easily frightened by littler things than an adult. Another reason why some people will develop specific phobias is that they may have been exposed to too much information about something, or too many warning about something.
The symptoms of a phobia (any kind) are all relatively the same. When exposed to what frightens the person, the person will go into a panic attack like state. There are many things that can occur during a panic attack, none which are pleasant. Some examples are trembling, shortness of breath, feeling of choking, chest pain, and nausea. Another common symptom that is often experienced by people with phobias is anticipatory anxiety. Anticipatory anxiety triggers something in people that makes them avoid all situations that may give them a panic attack, or to avoid the objects that people are afraid of when it comes to a specific phobia.
Diagnosing each type of phobia is based on the person’s account of their past experiences. Each type of phobia has a few specific ways of telling doctors that it’s the problem. For agoraphobia, there are a couple different things to look for when diagnosing. The main thing to look out for here is weather the patient experiences anxiety attacks inflicted by thought of being trapped in public places or situations that may pose a challenge to get out of, or might be embarrassing. The signs for having social phobia are similar in some ways to agoraphobia. It’s similar in the sense that the patient is afraid of being embarrassed in public and not wanted to be made a fool of at all. But social phobia goes much deeper than agoraphobia when it comes to defining it and diagnosing it. People with social phobia will often do poorly in school or at work, and may disrupt their ability to do everyday functions correctly, such as driving a car. Diagnosing a specific phobia is usually easy because the patient will tell the doctor what they are afraid of. From there, its all a matter of getting over their issue.
When it comes to diagnosing these three types of phobias, it can actually become difficult to tell them apart from other mental disorders. Patients with Agoraphobia and social phobia are occasionally mis-diagnosed as having paranoia, or schizophrenia. Diagnosing for a specific phobia can be challenging at times because specific phobias share some of the same traits that are in Obsessive compulsive disorder.
When it comes to treatment, all three categories of phobias are dealt with in similar ways. In agoraphobia, people will go through patient education, behavior therapy, and medication. A common thought by patients with this disorder is that they are going insane, or losing their mind. For effective treatment, it is essential that this idea be wiped clean from their minds.
People with social phobia are treated with behavior therapy, medication, and social skills training. A good percentage of people with social phobia benefit from combing some supportive counseling with some effective medications. The main importance with the treatment of this phobia though, is that the patient avoid any abusive drugs or alcohol. If they turn to those for help, it is very difficult for doctors to cure them.
Patients that have specific phobias are treated in three main ways, just like the other two. These ways are medication, progressive desensitization, and exposure. Exposure is by far the most important factor in curing someone with a specific phobia. People with specific phobias are often afraid of things that will usually do them no harm, such as snakes or spiders. If patients want to get treated fast and effectively, they need to start exposing themselves to the variable that gives them fear. The quicker they do this, the faster they will be cured.
Everyone one this planet will have a fear of something at some point in their lifetime. For some it may be simple flies or bees. Others it may be lions or alligators. And for some it can impair their everyday lifestyle, such as the people with social phobia and agoraphobia. Phobias come in all different degrees in every person, and are a quite interesting if you look into them.