Fears, Phobias & Anxieties (cont.)

imincognitoalso: My 20-year-old daughter refuses to stay anywhere alone. In addition to this only a few select people make her feel comfortable. This is ruining her life. She is unable to keep a job or maintain any sort of relationship. Any suggestions on how I can help her get over this?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Without knowing more about her, I would be reluctant to make any specific recommendations, but what little information you have given suggests that your daughter may suffer from some form of anxiety disorder and that it is interfering with her life. I would encourage her to seek out a consultation with a psychologist or other qualified mental health practitioner who I hope could help diagnose the problem and make specific recommendations.

BRONCO_4x4: I am agoraphobic and was wondering if you know any online support groups?

Richard Kneip, PhD: While I don't know if they have an online presence, Agoraphobics in Motion is a large organization dedicated to the support of agoraphobia sufferers and the dissemination of information about agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a common anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety about being in places and situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing or in which help might not be available in the event of having an unexpected panic attack. Their fears include being outside alone, being in a crowd, and being on a bridge, traveling in a bus, train or automobile. It is often accompanied by panic-like symptoms including pounding heart, shallow breathing, sweating, and fear of dying or "going crazy." You can find more information about agoraphobia and panic disorder at www.planetpsych.com.

darthwood2005: Is homophobia a real phobia?

Richard Kneip, PhD: No. Usually homophobia is used to describe negative attitudes that individuals might have towards gays. While these attitudes may be based on fear on an unconscious level, they are manifested most often as hatred or contempt.

nygirltoday: What is fear of change called? How do you move ahead if you are afraid of consequences of change in life, like job, relationships, etc?

Richard Kneip, PhD: I don't know the name of the phobia that represents fear of change, although I invite you to search our list of phobias at www.planetpsych.com. I'm sure it is in there somewhere. Fear of change probably lies as the basis of many of the problems that bring people in for therapy. If we all were flexible and willing to accommodate ourselves to our changing life circumstances, then there would be no need for a therapist or therapy at all. Far too often, however, we become trapped in the familiar and are unwilling or unable to try out new things.

almostjena: I have a fear of IV's. What can I do to overcome this fear?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Fear to a specific object, such as an IV, is a phobia and can be effectively treated with the group of techniques known as systematic desensitization as I described earlier. You might seek out a therapist trained in the so-called behavioral techniques or do a search on the Internet under systematic desensitization.

reality_jones: Can you recommend some relaxation techniques to reduce stress?

Richard Kneip, PhD: There was a book written a number of years ago, I believe by Jacobson, known as the Relaxation Response. For many years it was widely regarded as the best methodology for inducing a state of deep relaxation. The techniques are quite simple, and actually are very much like meditation involving the gradual and progressive relaxation of individual muscles while at the same time focusing on one's own breathing. With practice, it is possible to very quickly induce a state of deep relaxation, which is similar to sleep in that the brain waves as measured by an EEG become progressively greater in amplitude and lesser in frequency. In common term, this brain wave pattern is much like deep, non-dreaming sleep.

heavenlyblueyes: Can you please tell me if there is any activities I can do at night to calm the fear that someone is breaking into my house? I will stay awake all night pretending to be asleep and get in and out of the bed to check the doors and windows. I have even gone so far as placing things in front of the doors trying to calm my anxieties but to no avail. Lack of sleep is starting to affect my performance at work. Help!

Richard Kneip, PhD: I would recommend that you speak with a mental health professional to address this problem. While you suggest that your fears are unfounded in the sense that your living quarters are secured and you have difficulty sleeping after checking of the locks, a brief course of behaviorally oriented psychotherapy may be helpful in reducing the fears. Perhaps a psychiatrist might recommend a sleeping aide initially until the fears are reduced sufficiently to allow for normal uninterrupted sleep.

darthwood2005: Is arachnophobia a hereditary gene?

Richard Kneip, PhD: As far as I am aware, there is no evidence whatsoever of a genetic link to a specific phobia. In other words, if your mother had a fear of snakes, you are probably not likely to suffer a fear of snakes yourself. However, there is fairly strong evidence of at least some genetic predisposition of anxiety disorders in general. If you grew up in a household where mother spent a lot of her day making sure there were no snakes in the house, then such a powerful learning experience might be influential in your own phobic development. You might end up in the same place but it would be the result of a relatively weak genetic component and a stronger social learning component.

Thank you for all your excellent questions and judging by the large number of questions, we will do another chat on this topic soon. You can find more information about fears, phobias and anxieties at www.planetpsych.com, where you will also find discussion groups.

Moderator: Thank you Dr. Kneip. We will definitely have another chat on fears and phobias soon. Thank you for all of your guidance on the topic. We apologize if we didn't get to your question today. We hope the information you received was helpful. The WebMD chat team thanks you for spending the past hour with us. It was a pleasure hosting for you today. Have a great day.

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