The Chill of a Phobia

The Chill of a Phobia

5 June 2023

What scares you? If the mere thought of creepy crawlies or slithering serpents leave you breathless or nauseated, you’re not alone.

While we all experience fear, phobias bring on crushing stress. Around 7.7 to 12.5% of the global population will experience a specific phobia in their lifetime. Practically anything can be terrifying to anybody; from globophobia, the fear of balloons, to nomophobia which is the fear of being without your mobile phone … you name it, the list is endless.

Here’s the scoop: Phobias are one of the most common psychiatric disorders and can create a significant disruption in a person’s functioning and wellbeing. If left untreated, phobias may lead to social isolation and relationship conflicts. In fact, about 22% of people with phobias say they experience major dysfunction in their everyday life due to their phobia.

A phobia is an anxiety disorder fundamentally based on fear, lumped in the same class as post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, amongst others. They are defined as extreme, overwhelming, debilitating, and sometimes irrational actions to specific triggers. Phobias exist on the extreme tail end of fear, manifesting as absolute fight-or-flight horror. They typically don’t have a logical reason behind them, because usually the object is not harmful in the ways that we might catastrophize.

Most phobias typically develop during childhood or early adulthood. The cause? Traumatic experiences can often be the culprit behind anxiety and phobias, but genetics and other factors can play a role too.

The good news is that some phobias resolve on their own without treatment, especially among children and teens. For example, 2.9% of children experience social phobia, in comparison with 0.3% of adolescents. This suggests that many childhood fears can go away over time.

Fortunately safe and effective treatments are available which may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. The ultimate goal is to shift your thinking about the phobia so that your actions and emotions can follow suit and you no longer become frightened of fear itself. Exposure therapy is often considered as the most effective way of dealing with phobias.

However, treatments won’t necessarily “cure” a phobia, but it can help a patient to develop a more rational response in the face of fear. So, we’re not talking a miraculous recovery where fear does a complete 180. But most people can go from a life-interfering phobia to at least having the skills to interact with what they are afraid of. That means if you suffer from cynophobia and you see a dog coming down the other side of the street on a leash with an owner, you can walk by and not have a panic attack.

Living with a phobia can be scary and overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that seeking care and support from a mental health professional can help to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” – Nelson Mandela


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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