Know Everything About Phobias And Its Treatment

Overview | How the brain works? | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment|

What is called Phobias?

Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is an excessive, persistent, and unrealistic fear of an object, person, activity, animal, or situation. For a phobic person, the imagined threat is greater than any real threat offered by the cause of the terror or phobia.   

A person with phobia tries his/her best to avoid the cause of the phobia and if can’t, then the person will feel intensely distressed when faced with the source of the phobia. The average age that phobia begins is considered at 10 years old.

Encounter with the cause of the phobia can prevent them from functioning normally and it can lead to panic attacks sometimes.

Although, a phobia is a treatable issue. But, sometimes people fail to recognize the fear as phobia and neglect it. This can worsen the situation and can seriously impact the individual’s health and life. This often results in physical health problems, friends, family, school friends, issues or even can cause failure in school and may get fired from the job.

It can be inherited and/or influenced by any trigger. Stress is a permanent feeling for them, as they always have to think about how they can avoid their phobia trigger in any unfavorable conditions.

Fact: In the US, there are approximately 19 million people suffering from any type of phobias.

How does our brain work during a phobia?

 If we experience anything unfavorable and unpleasant accident, a part of our brain stores it. And if we encounter any similar event in the future, our brain retrieves the stressful memory of the past event. This puts the mind in a high alert and stressed state, which makes the condition of a phobic person even worse.

Fact: Women have double chances of phobia in comparison to men.

Types of phobias:

Phobias can be classified into three groups, they are:

  • Social phobia: fear of socializing, meeting with new people, public speaking, etc.
  • Agoraphobia: fear of being outside or open spaces
  • Specific phobias: fear of any particular thing or situations,

The most common types of specific phobias are:

  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights
  • Aquaphobia: fear of water
  • Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
  • Aerophobia: fear of flying
  • Blood, injuries, and injection (BII) phobia: fear of injuries involving blood
  • Claustrophobia: fear of being in a constricted and confined place
  • Cynophobia: fear of dogs
  • Xenophobia: fear of driving a car
  • Dentophobia: fear of dental procedures or dentists
  • Emetophobia: fear of vomiting
  • Erythrophobia: fear of blushing
  • Escalaphobia: fear of escalators
  • Glossophobia: fear of public speaking, also called performance anxiety
  • Gamophobia: fear of commitment
  • Hemophobia: fear of blood
  • Hypochondria: fear of becoming ill
  • Nomophobia: fear of living without mobile phones and computers
  • Nyctophobia: fear of darkness
  • Ophidiophobia: fear of snake
  • Tunnel phobia: fear of tunnels
  • Zoophobia: fear of animals etc.

A person can develop fear of anything.

Causes of phobias:

Mostly, people develop phobias in their childhood, early childhood, and teenage. The average age of development of phobias is considered at 10 years of age.  The risk of development of phobias after 30 years of age is quite less.

  • Hereditary
  • Living separately from the family
  • Strict parents and environment of the house
  • Generalization of fearful things
  • Stressful events or accidents
  • Early traumatic experiences
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression etc.

Symptoms of phobias:

The most common and prominent symptom of phobias is anxiety attacks. Apart from it, other symptoms include —

  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to speak
  • Rapid speech
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Disorientation
  • Choking sensation
  • Profuse sweating
  • A sense of impending doom
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  •  Nausea
  • A feeling of avoiding the source of fear is a must
  • Hot flushes or chills etc.

Risks factors and complications:

Genetic predisposition to anxiety is one of the major risk factors of phobias. If not treated, a person can always be in stressed about the upcoming phobic event and may keep thinking about how to avoid it. It not only put a negative impact on one’s psychological health but also can lead to life-threatening situations. Although, if a person has a specific treatment designed by expert doctors then he or she can lead a better life and better health.

Alcohol consumption is also a great risk factor in the case of phobias. Alcoholics are 10 times more likely to develop phobias than non-alcoholics.

Phobia can also lead to some life-threatening diseases. For example, heartbeat increases immediately during a phobic anxiety attack, this can be the cause of heart disease development further.

Diagnosis:

To get the correct assessment of diagnosis of phobia, you can contact a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed mental health therapist, family doctors and other primary health care providers.  If after assessment, any of these specialist suspects your phobia, then they will ask you about your symptoms and other health-related questions to know the exact condition. Or you may need to go for a medical interview and physical examination. Your phobia can also be associated with other health problems like depression, OCD etc. But yes, anxiety disorders are the permanent symptoms associated with phobias. Your doctors may prescribe you some routine check ups to know about any other possible cause of your symptoms.

Treatment:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – This therapy helps the phobic individual to change his/ her perception about the cause of fear. This therapy is proved to be quite helpful. Three types of techniques are used in this treatment, they are:
  • Didactic component
  • Cognitive components
  • Behavioural components
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI): This type of medications are often used to treat phobias when the CBT and desensitisation are inadequately effective. Some of these medications are –
  • Fluoxetine
  •  Paroxetine
  • Vortioxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Sertraline
  • Fluvoxamine etc.

But before using this kind of medications, consulting your doctor about it is a must. Because there are some side effects of these medications. The side effects vary from person to person and also depend on the medication you use. Some of the side effects are:

  1. Sexual dysfunction
  2. Trouble sleeping
  3. Dry mouth
  4. Nausea
  5. Blurred vision
  6. Constipation
  7. Soft stools
  8. Dizziness etc.
  9. Beta-blockers medications: This medication can block the physical symptoms associated with panics. But, its consumption should be limited as these medications can make you addicted.
  10. Other professional therapies
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