A phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by compulsive to unwarranted fear of situations, environments, objects, animals or people. Such fear is unpleasant to paralysing. These fears disrupt the normal everyday functioning of the man and it may badly interfere into daily life. Typical symptoms, which usually accompany a phobia, are palpitations, feelings of threat, feeling faint and even mere thought of the phobic situation may cause to the individual anxiety and panic.
Such feelings cannot be suppressed by the will, despite the fact that person ridden by a phobia can be even fully aware of. It is known about five hundred different kinds of phobias and their numbers are still adding up.
Anxiety and fear are common feelings that each of us knows. They are natural and they have protective function for every living beings. Fear is a response to a particular hazard, while anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state of which cause cannot be precisely defined. Fear lasts only for the time of persistent danger. The intensity of such fears may be different from the feeling of small malaise to massive feelings of fear. For persons suffering from a phobia it is difficult to control these feelings and such behaviour could affect their future functioning in everyday life. Sometimes it comes so called “avoidance behaviour,” the effort to avoid those types of situations where anxiety may occur. If they expect such a situation then occurs anticipatory anxiety. The beginnings of phobias are usually established in childhood. This may be either congenital anxiety, or some traumatic experience.
Symptoms of phobia
Symptoms of phobia appear on mental and physical levels and appear at a facing stressful factor or even at the mere projection or the thought of it. Psychological symptoms are demonstrated by feelings of fear of losing control and going mad, fear of loss of consciousness and loss of self-control, nervousness, restlessness, sometimes even fear of death. Physical symptoms are usually rapid heartbeat, rapid pulse, trembling and shaking, dry mouth, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, feeling of heaviness and tightness in the chest, dizziness, headaches, numbness, or tingling and having pins and needles and flushing of hot or cool.
Causes of Phobia
The great majority of phobias occur in childhood, with age they maintain, escalate, or disappear. Phobias and their origins are associated with some unpleasant memories and experiences, memorizing the unpleasant connections. People with labile nature tend to have stronger phobias. Determining may be a kind of temperament and character quality of the individual. The trigger of formatting of a phobia can be a psychological trauma or post-traumatic psychological disorder.
Looking into the history of phobias
Our brain has some entrenched programs from the past and it is using them even nowadays. An important reflex to our survival is the "fight or flight!" Our ancestors disposed the ability sense the danger and respond to it immediately. It is therefore not surprising that the basic and most common phobias are related to such matters, which meant to our ancestors imminent threat to life or health.
The man simply has a tendency to worry about the things that threaten the survival of his species. A list of phobias is still extended, as the modern era brings dozens of new phobias, whilst the old ones do not disappear.
Types of phobias
Specific phobias or isolated phobias- phobia, limited to certain situations
This is a group of disorders in which is the fear caused by certain well-defined situations or objects that are not normally dangerous. There are hundreds of specific phobias. These include, for example, social phobia, aviophobia (fear of flying), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), mysophobia (fear of dirt), hypnophobia (fear of sleep), xenophobia (fear of foreigners), cleptophobia (fear of robbery, stealing), nosophobia (fear of disease and its consequences), hypegiaphobia (fear of responsibility) spectrophobia (fear of mirrors), fear of women gynophobia and fear of men androphobia.
Phobias related to prejudice and discrimination - prejudices about a certain group of people
This group of disorders directly affects certain ethnic and population groups: negrophobia is a fear of black people, the fear of the gipsies – abdulophobie or fear of Christians - Christianophobia, and more.
Biological or chemical phobias
Hypersensitivity or increased sensitivity to certain biological and chemical factors, or even allergies. An example of such a phobia is a fear of sunlight – so called Heliophobia or fear of alternating temperatures, warm fire and cool nights - thermophobia.
Fear of animals - zoophobia
The best-known example of such a phobia is probably arachnophobia - fear of spiders. Other phobias are fear of the insect entomophobia, fear of dogs – cynophobia, fear of bees – apiphobia, fish – ichtyophobia, fear of otters - lutraphobia and others.
Fears of injuries
A fear of sharp objects is generally called aichmophobia, fear of needles is called Belone phobia of needles, and fear of blood is blood phobia.
Non -psychologic phobia
Olfactophobia (fear of odours and noise), photophobia (fear, or disproportionate responses to light)
About different kinds of phobias in detail
Arachnophobia - fear of spiders
It is one of animal phobias. Arachnophobia is the type of extreme fear of spiders. A persons suffering from arachnophobia are aware of their problem and it may even seem irrational to themselves, even though they refuse to get into a situation where they would be in contact with the spider. For this reason they are avoiding go into attics, basement spaces and they are leaving rooms where there are cobwebs. What exactly is behind the emergence of arachnophobia, it is not entirely clear. It can be a daunting experience from childhood, but insurmountable aversion to spiders may appear from birth. When person suffering with arachnophobia sees a spider, he is trying to escape as fast as possible to from its presence and proximity. He himself is not able to dispose or remove it. Sometimes it may even happen that this person petrify and has to call someone for help. Treating arachnophobia is possible via psychotherapy, the client may for example be exposed to feared situations in contact with the spider and so is learning to cope, deal with it, and overcome the fear. The treatment process must be slow and gradual, and with the consent of the client. Usually it starts with just pictures of spiders, the next stage of therapy is proximity of a spider in vicinity what is followed with full proximity, or even the client is trying to touch the feared spider.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, this word means fear of open spaces, but rather than fear of the space itself, it is a fear of an outbreak of a panic attack in a place where is no help available, or from which it is difficult to escape. Agoraphobia suffers up to 5% of the population. Besides the fear of panic symptoms people suffering from this disorder tend to worry often about what others would say if they would see them in such a situation. Such fears may lead to the fact that that person is afraid to leave home. However, hey can stay at home, keep open house, work, and the disorder will not appear, as long as they stay in the safe zone.
People with this disorder are often hypersensitive to their physical reactions and subconsciously they over-react to a normal situation. Progress of agoraphobia is a chronic the intensity fluctuates. The most important feature of agoraphobia is a fear of being away from home or be away from a person with whom they feel safe. Thus, afflicted people are usually avoiding independent travel, driving a car or going out of the apartment.
Social phobia is manifested at two levels. The first level is psychological or social, and the second level is physical. Social level then includes avoidance of social situations, which include contact with other people, getting to know the other person, to meet with the authority, the manifestation of opinion within the group, telephoning, receiving visits, speaking in front of others in public. On the physical level, it is manifested by blushing, shake of hands, and in severe forms can person suffering from social phobia physically collapse.
If this disorder is not treated, it usually lasts for a lifetime, although it may alleviate in the course of the time. A persons suffering from social phobia have the feeling that other people are watching and evaluating them, they fear of being ridiculed, rejection and they rather avoid problem situations. In interpersonal contact, they feel anxiety and thus they limit or reduce contact with others up to perform only certain activities. Social phobia is manifested by feelings of big and excessive nervousness that can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, tremor, dry mouth and other symptoms. For some people social phobia can grow into a morbid withdrawnness, it can even lead to stuttering or complete incapability to speak in public.
Aviophobia or fear of flying is reportedly the most common phobia in general. This phobia may manifest itself as a slight queasiness, nervousness, but in extreme cases as seizures panic on board of an airplane or a complete rejection of flying. This phobia affects more women and older people. This kind of phobia is related to the basic human instinct to remain on the ground and causes major problems for people who at the same time suffer from claustrophobia - fear of enclosed spaces. It is interesting that some airlines or airport operators offer special workshops for passengers with aviophobia in which they try to quell or dispel their fears.
Phobias are quite unpleasant matter that can affect human feelings and uncomfortably rule a normal day. However, it must be acknowledged that some phobias are actually quite curious. These are some of them:
- Lachanophobia: Fear of vegetables
- Spectrophobia: Fear of mirrors, afraid of looking in the mirror
- Autophobia or Monophobiasaa: fear of being alone, fear of oneself
- Dromophobia: fear of crossing streets
- Taphephobia: fear of the possibility of being buried alive
- Ephebiophobia: fear or loathing of teenagers
- Photophobia: fear or intolerance to visual perception of light
- Anatidaephobia: morbid fear that a duck is somewhere watching you, probably results from trauma caused by the attack of a duck or goose
- Nomophobia: morbid fear of loss or theft of a mobile phone or a fear of losing mobile signal
- Apeirophobia: fear of infinity/eternity
- Peladophobia: fear of bald people
- Paraskevidekatriaphobia: Fear of Friday the 13th
- Gamophobia: fear of getting marriage (this phobia occurs whenever the thought of marriage and its origin results mostly because of the endured divorce)
- Koumpounophobia: phobia of buttons
Phobia versus Philia
The antithesis of phobia is so called philia. Philia means hobby or love. Thus, unlike fear (phobia) is an extreme tendency to some things, animal or situation.
Some other phobias in detail
Claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed or uncomfortably small spaces. This disorder affects approximately 5% of the total population and the occurrence is higher among women than between men. The origin of this phobia is not fully understood. Most likely, it is a sufficiently strong negative traumatic experience with small spaces. Such experiences may be stuck in an elevator, locked in the closet etc. This information and the resulting experienced trauma is saved in the human brain and when is the person next time confronted with a similar situation it triggers an alarm response.
These reactions may deepen over time, and fears may increase or grow. Manifestations of phobias are mental as well as physical. The psychological manifestations are mainly fear and anxiety. The person has the feeling that he will not be able to get himself out of the place or he will be trapped in there. This person is paralyzed by fear, he feels a sense of danger. Physical manifestations of claustrophobia are palpitations, tremors, sweating, breathlessness, nausea, and dry mouth. Persons suffering with claustrophobia are trying to escape from the area, they are often unable to think clearly, and people with strong form of phobias may behave irritably and aggressively. It happens also that this person may faint or lose consciousness.
Claustrophobic states and seizures occur among people suffering from this kind of phobia, especially in moments they are in small or uncomfortably small spaces. Critical are primarily elevators, trains, subways, airplanes, tunnels and so on.
Treatment of claustrophobia is like the treatment of other types of phobias quite long and demanding. It is a usually a therapies that involve the process of knowing fear itself and progressive handling with it, coping with the feelings. The next step of the treatment is gradual exposure to feared situations and places. The therapy starts with less demanding situations. Later on are patients gradually overcoming more and more traumatic situations. Gradual improvement comes with the respect for the speed of overcoming of the various situations that may take different length of a time for each individual. It is obviously necessary to have consent of the client for this therapy.
If claustrophobia is not too strong, you can live with it without any big troubles, but person who suffers with it should rather avoid smaller spaces. However, if they are in situation where this phobia limits their life, they need to seek for a professional help.
Aichmophobia - fear of sharp objects
Aichmophobia is afraid of sharp objects. It is a pathological fear. The persons suffering with this phobia fear of scissors, needles, wires, sharp spikes, writing materials, and umbrella and in an extreme form, they can even fear of pointing the finger.
To some extent is this kind of phobia conditioned with inherited reflexes. Many of us remember from childhood fears of blood collection, or vaccination. Some unpleasant experiences with some of these risky objects may cause long-term human trauma, which may develop in phobias. People who are suffering with aichmophobia fear of medical procedures. In a situation where they have to undergo a blood transfusion, blood tests, or surgery, they react testily or even very aggressively. In this situation they may feel that they life is directly threatened and they usually act instinctively.
Fears and concerns are quite typical for children. From some of these fears may develop phobias persisting to adulthood. Others are in the course of life successfully removed.
Completely normal, frequent, and typical among preschool children are fears of the animals, as well as the fear of strangers and separation anxiety when separated from their mother among toddlers and preschool children. Well know and quite common is the fear of the dark, of medical treatment, etc.
Adult person will deal with fear or phobias differently than if child must cope with fear. The child is still missing the necessary sufficient experiences, repertoire of resources, personality traits, but also the knowledge and skills to be able name their fear, sought for help, and they do not know how to deal with phobias.
A common reaction to fear is escape from threatening situation. When is a grown man for example afraid of flying, so he usually avoids this means of transportation and selects a destination for their vacation where they do not have to use for transport an aircraft. Similarly, people suffering with arachnophobia often avoid natural seating area and a place where the spider, the source of his fear, might occur. At the time, when he had contact with some spider, they leave, or at least looks away.
Such similar tactics choose children who usually run away from the source of their fear. When they fear of the darkness, they run to their parents' room and demand to sleep in their bed. And it is similar, when is a child concerned about schools and schooling. In such a situation, the child selects the escape, in the form of avoiding the feared situation and the child is escaping, for example, into a "disease." They assert their parents or teachers that they had a headache, stomach, etc., just to stay at home.
Phobias, as mentioned fear of strangers, should gradually disappear at around three years of age. Others for common childhood fears, such as fear of the dark, animals, doctors, etc., also have a tendency to subside with age. However, when such a reaction continues after the sixth year of the child and it persists into adolescence, it is very likely that will develop phobic disorder, which tends to persist for years.
Man is then in a certain way in his life by this phobia limited. He cannot for example, never use a plane if he wants to go somewhere away on vacation. On the other hand, these people are on their daily way to work choosing complicated way in public transport than to avoid using the tram or subway. They avoid managerial positions, only to evade appearing before more people or having a speech, being in the spotlight etc.
So when with a certain fear suffers an older child, it is good that parents and authorities do not underestimate his feelings and experiences in no way. The child should feel support and a helping hand in dealing with his phobia. It is therefore not appropriate fear them with some kind of punishment, but it is also important that they will not avoid the fear-inducing situations. The escape response may in fact become a pattern of behaviour for the rest of their life, and will not solve the fear itself. The person will just learn to run, to avoid unpleasant feelings that the situation causes and thus he will increase their anxiety. On the other hand, it is not appropriate that the child is thrown into a situation in style "... and swim ...“ It is good to adapt the communication with children according to their age and mental development, learn them to talk together about what evokes their fear and be able to name their fear. It is recommended to expose them to the dreaded situation first gradually, slowly and in small steps, so that the children learn to gradually manage their anxiety attacks and panic. The beneficial in this case are various special relaxation and breathing exercises, which help to alleviate feelings of tension and fear.
Treatment of anxiety disorders and phobias
The most effective way of treatment appears to be a combination of pharmacological and psychological therapy.
Pharmacological treatment offers medicines from group anxiolytics, which are called. medication for anxiety. These drugs should be administered daily, but in short intervals, a maximally for a few weeks. There is also quite a high probability of addiction. Another group of drugs, which are sometimes used in the treatment of phobias, are antidepressants.
Psychological therapy, which is in the context of anxiety disorders frequently used, is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). This kind of therapy helps the client to orientate in the problem and gives insight into the situation and knowing the trigger of their trouble. They have to learn to work with these states of mind, thereby they will be able to relieve anxiety.
The main features of this therapy are:
- Short-term and time limitations
- Focus on the present and on specific issues
- Determination of actual functional goals
- Accent on a quick self-sufficiency of client• A training methods: based on the principle of repetition, learning, and training clients gain skills and are able to handle different situations.