What is a phobia?

Phobias are common treatable mental health disorders.
Phobias are common treatable mental health disorders.

A phobia is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. It is a type of  anxiety disorder. A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity, or situation. Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders. People with phobias try to avoid what they are afraid of. If they cannot, they may experience the following

What are the different groups of phobias?

What are the different groups of phobias?There are three main groups of phobias which include the following

  • Specific (simple) phobia: These are the most common type of phobias and focus on a specific object. Specific or simple phobias produce intense fear of a particular object or situation that is, in fact, relatively safe. People who suffer from specific phobias are aware that their fear is irrational, but the thought of facing the object or situation often brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety. Examples may include persistent fear of dogs, insects, or snakes; driving a car; heights; tunnels or bridges; thunderstorms; and/or flying.
  • Social phobia: People with a social phobia are afraid of being in the company of other people. They fear being humiliated or embarrassed in front of other people. This problem may also be related to feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem and can drive a person to drop out of school, avoid making friends, and remain unemployed.
  • Agoraphobia: People with agoraphobia are afraid of being in open spaces such as markets, bank queues, or bridges. In some cases, panic attacks can become so debilitating that the person may develop agoraphobia because they fear another panic attack. In extreme cases, a person with agoraphobia may be afraid to leave their house.

What are the top 10 phobias?

People may develop a phobia of almost anything. Additionally, as society changes, the list of potential phobias may change. For instance, nomophobia is the fear of being without a cell phone, computer, or technology. The top ten phobias are as follows

  1. Claustrophobia: This is the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces.
  2. Zoophobia: This is an umbrella term that involves extreme fear of certain animals. Arachnophobia means fear of spiders. Ornithophobia is the fear of birds. Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes and apiphobia means the fear of bees.
  3. Brontophobia: This is the fear of thunder and thunderstorms. Such people know that thunder cannot harm them, but they are still worried about going out during a thunderstorm.
  4. Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights. It is a dangerous condition that can affect a person even when they are climbing stairs or a ladder. The fear may be so extreme that the person may not be able to move and it may be difficult to rescue them.
  5. Aerophobia: This is the fear of flying. The person may have severe anxiety in a plane. This may be due to a bad flight-related experience in the past, such as extreme turbulence or even witnessing a crash on TV.
  6. Blood, injury and injection (BII) phobia: Injury phobias are generally phobias associated with fear of medical procedures. They may often be associated with fainting and hyperventilation. These include hemophobia (fear of blood) and trypanophobia (fear of receiving an injection). Odontiatophobia is the fear of visiting a dentist.
  7. Carcinophobia: This is the fear of developing cancer. Such people tend to correlate every new symptom with cancer. For example, every headache is a brain tumor.
  8. Emetophobia: This is the fear of vomiting. This makes a person unnaturally afraid of vomiting, especially in public. 
  9. Phasmophobia: This is the fear of ghosts and it is quite a common fear.
  10. Triskaidekaphobia: This is an extreme fear related to the number 13.

What are the treatment options for phobias?

Phobias are treatable and people who have them are nearly always aware of their disorder. This helps diagnosis a great deal. Phobias are treated with a combination of therapy and medications, which may include the following

  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapy is an umbrella term for the types of therapy that are used to treat mental health disorders. This form of therapy seeks to identify and help change potentially self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors. It functions on the idea that all behaviors are learned and that unhealthy behaviors can be changed. The focus of treatment is often on current problems and how to change them.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The doctor, therapist or counselor helps the person with a phobia learn different ways of understanding and reacting to the source of their phobia. This can make coping easier. Most importantly, CBT can teach a person experiencing a phobia to control their own feelings and thoughts.
  • Medications such as beta blockers, antidepressants and tranquilizers may help treat a phobia
    • Beta blockers: These can help reduce the physical signs of anxiety that can accompany a phobia.
    • Antidepressants: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed for people with phobias. They affect serotonin levels in the brain and this can result in better moods.
    • Tranquilizers: Benzodiazepines are an example of a tranquilizer that might be prescribed for a phobia. These may help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Medication therapy may carry the risk of a few common side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sometimes weight gain. A doctor may prescribe the best medication with the least side effects depending on the type of phobia.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/27/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

AARP