Phobias? We Can Help
A phobia is an excessive, persistent and unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. Common phobias are the experience of intense anxiety in closed spaces, the sight of blood, fear of flying or heights, thunderstorms, fear of leaving home, social situations (social phobia) or being in a public place (agoraphobia), of choking or vomiting, or the sight of spiders, snakes or other animals, and many other causes. Often these fears are out of proportion to the actual danger associated with them. The intense physical and psychological reactions involved can interfere with people’s daily functioning. Children’s phobias may appear and disappear within a relatively short period of time, but most adult phobias remain unless treated (Harvard Health, 2019).
What Causes Phobias?
Some of the causes are unknown, but many experience phobias as a result of a negative event, or because they learned to fear things from family members. Phobias may be inherited or the result of changes in the brain, and may also be related to temperament. They often appear in childhood, but can occur at any time of life (Mayo Clinic, 2019).
Impact of Phobias
The impact of having a phobia can be quite severe and cause people to become socially isolated. It may be accompanied by depression and other types of anxiety and can lead to self-medication through drugs and alcohol. If severe anxiety related to a phobia is disrupting your ability to work, maintain relationships, and engage in leisure activities, it may be time to seek help.
Treatment varies depending upon the type of phobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), especially when desensitization or exposure is used can be helpful in a relatively short period of time. Learning to relax, breathe, and master the fear at one’s own pace under controlled conditions can help to considerably reduce anxiety. Anti-anxiety and/or anti-depression medications are sometimes used to treat acute symptoms. But in many cases, CBT is an effective treatment for phobias. Treatment for phobias is generally very effective with 80% of people finding relief in one or combined forms of treatment (Harvard Health, 2019). Help can also be found by others. The Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario has many helpful resources for people with anxiety and phobias.