Most of us have fears – whether that’s of spiders, snakes, heights… Feeling scared is an evolutionary and rational response to things or scenarios that are a threat to us. It becomes a problem however, when the reaction of panic or terror to objects, activities or situations is largely out of proportion to the actual threat. This is when it becomes a phobia. Phobias are more distinct that fears, and if they become severe, the sufferer may organise their daily life around avoiding the thing that’s causing them anxiety. The perceived threat is called the phobic stimulus, and some people feel intense fear when just thinking about it or seeing it on the television. This disproportionate reaction is often a characteristic of a specific phobia. Initial symptoms of specific phobias typically emerge in childhood or early adolescence.
If you experience specific phobias, the chances are you’re completely conscious that your fears and reactions are irrational, but they are instinctive and uncontrollable. Your phobic stimulus can trigger panic attacks where you feel profuse physical symptoms such as palpitations, a feeling of choking, nausea, light headedness, chest pain, hot or cold flushing and sweating.
So how do you know if you have a specific phobia? You’ll likely be experiencing the following…
- A continuous, immoderate and irrational fear of something specific such as seeing blood, encountering a dog, being in or near water.
- Avoiding situations that are likely to involve a phobic stimulus. If it’s unavoidable, you will feel extremely distressed.
- Difficulty going about daily living
The above typically have been present for at least six months.
Experts have generically categorised specific phobias into the following:
- Animal type: For example dogs, spiders, snakes.
- Natural Environment type: For example thunder, water, heights.
- Bodily: For example injections, seeing blood or being injured/witnessing an injury
- Situation type: For example lifts, bridges, driving, escalators.
- Other: For example choking, vomiting.
Why do some people experience specific phobias?
Specific phobias can often run in the family, they can develop due to nurture of nature – i.e. a genetic predisposition. Traumatic experiences can also lead to specific phobias, for example witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.
Almost all phobias can be effectively treated and cured. Less complex phobias can be treated through gradual exposure to the phobic stimulus, which is known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. Complex phobias typically take a bit longer and involves talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Are you experiencing a specific phobia that is impacting your life? Get in touch with Dalton Wise today and we can help you take back control of your mental health.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Click HERE to find out.