Phobias: Fighting the Fear

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If you have a social phobia, you might be afraid of speaking in front of people for fear of embarrassing yourself and being humiliated in public. In severe cases, this can become debilitating and may prevent you carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends. Phobias are not usually formally diagnosed.

What is a phobia?

Most people with a phobia are fully aware of the problem. But if you have a phobia, continually trying to avoid what you're afraid of will make the situation worse. Ask a GP for help if you have a phobia. They may refer you to a specialist with expertise in behavioural therapy, such as a psychologist.

Simple phobias can be treated through gradual exposure to the object, animal, place or situation that causes fear and anxiety. This is known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. Medication is not usually used to treat phobias.


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But it's sometimes prescribed to help people cope with the effects of anxiety. These are far from the only specific phobias. People can develop a phobia of almost anything. Also, as society changes, the list of potential phobias changes. For instance, nomophobia is the fear of being without a cell phone or computer. As described in one paper , it is "the pathologic fear of remaining out of touch with technology. It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of 30 years, and most begin during early childhood, the teenage years, or early adulthood.

They can be caused by a stressful experience, a frightening event, or a parent or household member with a phobia that a child can 'learn. These usually develop before the age of 4 to 8 years.

In some cases, it may be the result of a traumatic early experience. One example would be claustrophobia developing over time after a younger child has an unpleasant experience in a confined space. Phobias that start during childhood can also be caused by witnessing the phobia of a family member.

A child whose mother has arachnophobia, for example, is much more likely to develop the same phobia. More research is needed to confirm exactly why a person develops agoraphobia or social anxiety. Researchers currently believe complex phobias are caused by a combination of life experiences, brain chemistry, and genetics.

Fighting Phobias The Things That Go Bump in the Mind

They may also be an echo of the habits of early humans, leftover from a time in which open spaces and unknown people generally posed a far greater threat to personal safety than in today's world. If a person faces a similar event later on in life, those areas of the brain retrieve the stressful memory, sometimes more than once.

This causes the body to experience the same reaction. In a phobia, the areas of the brain that deal with fear and stress keep retrieving the frightening event inappropriately. Researchers have found that phobias are often linked to the amygdala , which lies behind the pituitary gland in the brain. The amygdala can trigger the release of "fight-or-flight" hormones. These put the body and mind in a highly alert and stressed state. Phobias are highly treatable, and people who have them are nearly always aware of their disorder. This helps diagnosis a great deal. Speaking to a psychologist or psychiatrist is a useful first step in treating a phobia that has already been identified.

If the phobia does not cause severe problems, most people find that simply avoiding the source of their fear helps them stay in control. Many people with specific phobias will not seek treatment as these fears are often manageable. It is not possible to avoid the triggers of some phobias, as is often the case with complex phobias.

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In these cases, speaking to a mental health professional can be the first step to recovery. Most phobias can be cured with appropriate treatment. There is no single treatment that works for every person with a phobia. Treatment needs to be tailored to the individual for it to work.

The doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist may recommend behavioral therapy, medications, or a combination of both. Therapy is aimed at reducing fear and anxiety symptoms and helping people manage their reactions to the object of their phobia.

Math phobias: fighting the fear

The following medications are effective for the treatment of phobias. Beta blockers: These can help reduce the physical signs of anxiety that can accompany a phobia. Side effects may include an upset stomach , fatigue , insomnia , and cold fingers. Antidepressants: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs are commonly prescribed for people with phobias.

They affect serotonin levels in the brain, and this can result in better moods.

Individuals on an MAOI may have to avoid certain types of food. Side effects may initially include dizziness, an upset stomach, restlessness, headaches, and insomnia. Taking a tricyclic antidepressant TCA , such as clomipramine, or Anafranil, has also been found to help phobia symptoms. Initial side effects can include sleepiness, blurred vision, constipation , urination difficulties, irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, and tremors.

Tranquilizers: Benzodiazepines are an example of a tranquilizer that might be prescribed for a phobia.

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Understanding phobias: blogs and stories | Time To Change

These may help reduce anxiety symptoms. People with a history of alcohol dependence should not be given sedatives. Desensitization, or exposure therapy: This can help people with a phobia alter their response to the source of fear. They are gradually exposed to the cause of their phobia over a series of escalating steps. For example, a person with aerophobia, or a fear of flying on a plane, may take the following steps under guidance:.

Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT : The doctor, therapist, or counselor helps the person with a phobia learn different ways of understanding and reacting to the source of their phobia. This can make coping easier. Most importantly, CBT can teach a person experiencing phobia to control their own feelings and thoughts. Phobias can be a source of genuine and ongoing distress for an individual. However, they are treatable in most cases, and very often the source of fear is avoidable.

If you have a phobia, the one thing you should never be afraid of is seeking help. They also offer a range of talks on how to overcome specific phobias. Step-by-Step Instructions Step-by-step instructions on how to deal with symptoms related to specific anxiety disorders as well general strategies. Learn how to help yourself. Lead a happier, healthier life with help from these plans.

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