Phobia: An Anxiety Disorder Less Talked About
Screaming at the sight of a home gecko? Shivering by the thought of closed spaces? Afraid to get into the fantastical Slytherin house (only for Potterheads)? These might be the signs of Phobia.
What is Phobia?
Claustrophobic, hydrophobic, acrophobic — you must have heard these phobia-related terms in a dressed-down manner. Phobia, translating to abnormal or irrational fear, is defined as a kind of anxiety disorder. It can be provoked by certain people, places, animals, patterns, objects, and events. Phobia tends to be specific in terms of its trigger and source. If we compare fear and phobia, fear is a much milder counterpart. Phobia is more complex and specific. Biologically speaking, fear has evolved as a mechanism or stimulus to help during fight or flight reactions. It helps the body to prepare for uncalled situations and to ensure its moderate functioning. Any malfunctioning may result in neurobiological or psychiatric disorders.
Phobia is a fear overfed. It can be innate, sprung out of experiences, or emerge from debilitating psychological conditioning. In phobia, excessive fear is known to cause more harm than the object of fear. Likely, the source of fear is not even distantly harmful. Phobias can range from mere annoyance to impairment. On one end, our biological evolution makes us innately fearful of reptiles, known as herpetophobia; whereas, the fear of darkness, called nyctophobia, is induced and sensitized through different mediums of storytelling.
How does it develop?
With an exhaustive list of phobias, it is difficult to attribute its origin to a single source. A phobia can develop due to genetic factors, a growing environment, or previous traumatic experiences. Your reaction or response to a situation may also play a crucial role in the development of a specific phobia. Chronic stress can develop into a phobia as well. Some phobias can be imbibed from your parents, like picking up their reaction to a particular situation or their stress response. A strong reaction against your opinion can also grow the seed of anxiety in your being.
A person may suffer from more than one type of phobia at a time and may respond either by avoidance of the situation or by expressing excessive stress and anxiety. Many people endure it, a few others avoid it, remaining few just let it be. Phobias may also disrupt your daily life, work, and professional and personal relationships, among others.
Broad classification of phobias
Phobias are broadly classified into three types:
- Specific Phobia
- Social Phobia
Specific Phobia: Previously known as simple phobias, specific phobia is considered as the fear of a situation like closed spaces or heights; fear of nature like water, rain, or thunder; fear of animals like reptiles, dogs, or insects: fear of hospitals or blood; fear of bacteria or viruses, among others. Specific phobias usually develop during adulthood. For some people, the fear of nature, animals, and situations wears off as they grow old, but for some others, it persists. These situations might not pose any harm to the individual, and the person suffering from them might well be aware of it.
Social Phobia: Social phobia is the intense fear of being in a social setup. It is similar to social anxiety but with intense symptoms and effects. Social phobia emerges when a person has to go out to attend a social get-together, meet people, initiate a conversation, place an order or talk over a call. Worrying about such events triggers sweating, shivering, and light-headedness among people. It may also cause a feeling of incompetence.
Agoraphobia: When a person is fearful of being in an open, public, or crowded space with limited to no means of escape, it is known as agoraphobia. Most individuals suffering from agoraphobia tend to be enchained in their houses. They prefer to avoid situations of anxiety and distress. Agoraphobia can impair a person’s life by limiting them to the confinements of their home. This can also escalate to panic disorder.
Some common types of phobias are:
- Fear of darkness — Achluophobia
- Fear of heights — Acrophobia
- Fear of small confined spaces — Claustrophobia
- Fear of insects — Entomophobia
- Fear of fire — Pyrophobia
- Fear of animals — Zoophobia
Are there any treatments for Phobia?
The treatment for phobias aims at improving the quality of the lives of the patients. One of the methods to reduce the intense reaction toward a phobia is the repeated introduction of fear-causing stimuli to the patient. After a certain time, the brain starts to filter out unnecessary sensory information and reduces the response to the fear-causing stimuli. The other treatment methods can include counseling, medications, and psychotherapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness techniques like meditation, relaxation, and physical exercises.