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Phobic Disorder (Phobias) - Best Help, Advice, Therapy & Treatment...

A Phobia is an irrational, unrealistic or exaggerated fear response to a specific trigger object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little danger.

 

Common phobias include fear of animals (such as dogs, snakes and spiders), fear of flying, and fear of heights. For severe phobias, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing you fear.

 

A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

 

Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.

 

If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause a lot of distress.

All phobias can limit your daily activities and may cause severe anxiety and depression. Complex phobias, such as agoraphobia, social phobia and emetophobia, are more likely to cause these symptoms.


People with phobias often purposely avoid coming into contact with the thing that causes them fear and anxiety. For example, someone with a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) may not want to touch a spider or even look at a picture of one.


In some cases, a person can develop a phobia where they become fearful of experiencing anxiety itself because it feels so uncomfortable.


You don't have to be in the situation you're fearful of to experience the symptoms of panic. The brain is able to create a reaction to fearsome situations even when you aren't actually in the situation.

Anxiety disorder

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. You may not experience any symptoms until you come into contact with the source of your phobia.


However, in some cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make a person feel anxious or panicky. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.


Symptoms may include:

  • unsteadiness, dizziness and lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • increased heart rate or palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • trembling or shaking
  • an upset stomach

If you don't come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life.

 

However, if you have a complex phobia (see later) such as agoraphobia, social phobia or emetophobia, leading a normal life may be very difficult.

How common are phobias?

Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder.


They can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex and social background.

 

Some of the most common phobias include:

  • arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  • claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces
  • agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places
  • social phobia – fear of social situations
  • emetophobia - fear of vomiting

Types of phobia

There are a wide variety of objects or situations that someone could develop a phobia about. However, phobias can be divided into two main categories:

  • specific or simple phobias
  • complex phobias

The two categories are discussed below.

Specific or simple phobias

Specific or simple phobias centre around a particular object, animal, situation or activity.

 

They often develop during childhood or adolescence and may become less severe as you get older.


Common examples of simple phobias include:

  • animal phobias – such as dogs, spiders, snakes or rodents
  • environmental phobias – such as heights, deep water and germs
  • situational phobias – such as visiting the dentist or flying
  • bodily phobias – such as blood, vomit or having injections
  • sexual phobias – such as performance anxiety or the fear of getting a sexually transmitted infection 

Complex phobias

Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias. They tend to develop during adulthood and are often associated with a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about a particular situation or circumstance.


The three most common complex phobias are:

  • agoraphobia
  • social phobia
  • emetophobia

Agoraphobia

Often thought of as a fear of open spaces, but Agoraphobia is much more complex than this. Someone with agoraphobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be difficult if they have a panic attack.

 

The anxiety usually results in the person avoiding situations such as:

  • being alone
  • being in crowded places, such as busy restaurants or supermarkets 
  • travelling on public transport

Social phobia

Also known as social anxiety disorder, social phobia centres around feeling anxious in social situations.

 

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 from carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends.

Emetophobia

Often thought of as being simply a fear of vomiting, or a fear of being sick, but the effects of emetophobia can be far much more wide ranging and debilitating.

 

Someone with emetophobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where someone might be sick, or where escaping may be difficult if they are in the presence of someone who might vomit or who is vomiting. So emetophobia sufferers might well, for example, avoid using late night public transport, for fear of a late night reveller vomiting nearby on either the bus, tube or platform.

 

Similarly emetophobia sufferers may well exhbit excessive cleanliness, and be unusually concerned about picking up a bug, or being ill, for fear that it will lead to them having to vomit.

 

Many people with emetophobia also experience anger, frustration and despair at not being understood, believed or supported – especially about the severity of the feelings of terror and horror. 

 

Other secondary fears that may arise as a result of emetophobia include:

  • fear of eating outside of one’s home, or eating food one has not prepared (in case it may lead to food poisoning which would cause vomiting)
  • nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea a great deal of the time. (While these symptoms should be checked out, they are usually due to anxiety.)
  • fear of taking any prescription medication that may have nausea or vomiting as a listed side-effect.
  • fear of animals who vomit
  • fear of all children (as they vomit more often, sometimes without warning, and they are more prone to viruses)
  • fear of pregnancy (due to morning sickness, or vomiting at delivery)
  • fear of anesthesia – due to vomiting as a side-effect
  • fear of hospitals and nursing homes
  • fear of traveling (in case they are motion sick, or someone else is)
  • fear of alcohol consumption, or parties where alcohol is consumed
  • fear of amusement parks where people may be sick on rides
  • fear of television and movies (more and more, vomiting is becoming commonplace in the media)
  • fear of psychotherapy (lest it involves exposure therapy they feel they can’t handle)
  • fear of a number of jobs, limiting career choices. (Emetophobics also often have difficulty holding down a job, due to the number of sick days they take.)
  • fear of sick or injured people no matter what they have, as vomiting can be a symptom of every illness.
  • fear of public toilets (as someone may come in there and vomit)
  • fear of others’ coughing, burping, touching their stomachs, looking pale, saying they don’t feel well
  • nightmares – particularly about vomiting, but night terrors are common as well
  • refusal or inability to actually vomit. Most emetophobics do not vomit at all but for exceptional circumstances.

What causes phobias

Phobias don't have a single cause, but there are a number of associated factors. For example:

  • a phobia may be associated with a particular incident or trauma
  • a phobia may be a learned response that a person develops early in life from a parent or sibling (brother or sister)
  • genetics may play a role – there's evidence to suggest that some people are born with a tendency to be more anxious than others

Diagnosing phobias

Phobias aren't usually formally diagnosed. Most people with a phobia are fully aware of the problem - although some might put it down to them 'just being the way they are' - not realising that they really don't have to be that way.

 

A person will sometimes choose to live with a phobia, taking great care to avoid the object or situation they're afraid of. However, if you have a phobia, continually trying to avoid what you're afraid of will make the situation worse.

 

Almost all phobias can be treated successfully.

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Articles about fears and phobias

Select here for some additional background Articles about Phobic Disorder (Phobias).

Find out more about the anxiety disorders

Phobic Disorder is one of six major anxiety disorders that have been identified, each with their own distinct symptom profile. You can read more about the other anxiety disorders here:

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