Phobia is an anxiety disorder that causes panic, intense and debilitating fear, and other physical manifestations, such as sweating, fainting, difficulty breathing, and palpitations. At first glance a phobia may seem funny to others who don’t have this condition, but extreme fear can be crippling and a lifetime burden.
Causes and Effects
A phobia is usually caused by a traumatic experience, brain abnormalities and parental influence. The person not only experiences terror but an intense, irrational fear that can sometimes cause them to harm themselves and other people. It is normal for people to feel an aversion to something, but when he/she takes steps to avoid whatever that source of fear is, that is considered phobia. The thing does not have to be there physically, sometimes a photo of a spider alone can trigger a panic.
Most cases of phobia go untreated because the patient is usually not aware that there is a treatment or they don’t want to come forward with their condition, often fearing the stigma that comes with it. In consequence, some people lose or don’t take opportunities, and live disruptive, fearful lives.
Most Common Phobias
There are three categories of phobias. Specific phobia is triggered by a specific stimulus. Social phobia on the other hand is fear of other people’s perception of you. While agoraphobia is fear of wide, open space.
In a study in 2014, 9% of people in Singapore have experienced panic attack due to phobia. One out of five of these cases are extreme phobias. The most common phobias in Singapore are the following:
1. Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
2. Aviatophobia – fear of flying
3. Trypanophobia – fear of injections
4. Nyctophobia – fear of the dark
5. Claustrophobia – fear of closed or small spaces
6. Glossophobia – stage fright, fear of speaking or public speaking and performing
7. Acrophobia – fear of heights
8. Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces or a crowded area
Sometimes a combination of related phobias are experienced by the same person. Those who fear flying also often experience claustrophobia, for example.
Treatments for Phobias
People who are at risk of having a phobia are those who had a traumatic experience during childhood, and those who have a genetic predisposition to panic and anxiety. However, phobia can be treated using various means.
1. Counseling. Talking about your problem can help ease bottled up fears. This will let the person feel that he/she can do something about the condition and that people are willing to listen and help.
2. Medication. Antidepressants can help in extreme cases to treat other symptoms such as panic and depression.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This treatment is used for other mental health conditions as well. In phobias, it exposes the person gradually to the object of fear in a controlled setup. It will help change the person’s behavior and thinking about their problems.
4. Desensitization. This technique treats a phobia by self-exposure. He/she is gradually exposed to the object of fear until the symptoms of panic disappear.