What is a Phobia?

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Some fears and phobias really curb your enjoyment and put a restraint on many thing in your life. So, what exactly is a phobia? Are there any treatments available? Will you ever be able to overcome your fear or heights (acrophobia), or your fear of closed places (claustrophobia) and many other fears like these? Let’s read more to know about what is a phobia?, its types, and what are possible treatments and medications available.

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder caused by a persistent and excessive fear of a particular object or situation​1​. Phobias are caused by a rapid onset of fear that lasts for more than six months. Those who are affected will go to great efforts to avoid the situation or object, to a degree greater than the actual danger posed. They experience significant distress​1​ if the object or situation cannot be avoided, that’s why they are different from normal fears. Approximately 75% of people with phobias have multiple phobias. Phobias affect women twice as often as they affect males. The beginning of a phobia is most common between the ages of 10 and 17, with rates decreasing as people get older. Those with phobias are at a higher risk of suicide.

Key points in the Article:

Types of Phobias:

A Lepidopterophobic girl, one who has the fear of butterflies or moths.

Most phobias fall under three categories, and such phobias are considered sub-types of anxiety disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V). The categories are:

Specific phobias​2​: Fears of specific objects or social situations that cause anxiety and, in some cases, panic attacks. Animal phobia, natural environment phobia, situational phobia, and blood-injection-injury phobia are the four types of specific phobia.

Social phobia: Also known as social anxiety disorder, is when the person is afraid of being judged by others.

Agoraphobia: It is a fear of leaving home or a small familiar ‘safe’ area, as well as the possibility of panic attacks. It can also be caused by phobias such as fear of open spaces, social embarrassment, or contamination.

Possible Treatment and Therapy:

There are different methods to treat phobias like,  Systematic desensitization, progressive relaxation, virtual reality, modelling, medication, and hypnotherapy, these are some of the techniques used to treat phobias. The good news is that psychologists and other researchers have developed some effective behavioral and pharmacological treatments for phobias, as well as technological interventions, over the last several decades.​3​

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

CBT, stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a psychosocial intervention aimed at improving mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing cognitive distortions (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, as well as improving emotional regulation and developing personal coping strategies to address current problems. CBT can help a person challenge dysfunctional thoughts or beliefs by being mindful of their own feelings, with the goal that the person will realize that their fear is irrational​4​.

Systematic Desensitization:

Systematic desensitization is a method used in the treatment of phobias. It is a process in which people seeking help gradually become accustomed to their phobia and eventually overcome it. Traditional systematic desensitization involves exposing a person to the object they are afraid of over time in order to prevent the fear and discomfort from becoming overwhelming. When traditional systematic desensitization fails, humor has been shown to be an excellent alternative. Humor systematic desensitization includes a set of treatment activities that evoke humor in the presence of the feared object.

Virtual Reality Therapy:

Another technique for helping phobic people confront a feared object is virtual reality therapy. It makes use of virtual reality to create scenes that would be impossible or unethical in the real world. It is just as effective as traditional exposure therapy and has a few extra benefits. Controlling the scenes and exposing the phobic person to more exposure are two examples of the advantages of treating the person with this therapy.

Hypnotherapy:

To treat phobias, hypnotherapy can be used alone or in combination with systematic desensitization​5​. The underlying cause of the phobia may be discovered through hypnotherapy. The phobia may be the result of a past event that the person does not remember now (also called repression).

Medication for Phobias:

Medications can help in the regulation of anxiety and fear in response to a specific fearful object or situation. In some cases of phobia, antidepressant medications such as SSRIs or MAOIs may be beneficial. Antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by impacting serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. People may be prescribed an antidepressant because serotonin impacts mood​6​.

Beta blockers, beta blockers are a type of medication used to treat abnormal heart rhythms and prevent a second heart attack after a first heart attack. They’re also commonly used to treat hypertension. But are no longer the first choice of most patients in the initial treatment. Beta Blockers are another option for treating adrenaline-related symptoms like sweating, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, tremors, and the sensation of a pounding heart. These symptoms can be reduced by taking beta-blockers before a phobic event, making the event less frightening.

Some Unusual Phobias Include The Following:

Alektorophobiafear of chickens
Nephophobiafear of clouds
Cryophobiafear of ice or cold
Pogonophobiafear of beards
Onomatophobiafear of names

List of Phobias from A-Z:

Name of the phobiasTheir meaning
AchluophobiaFear of darkness
AcrophobiaFear of heights
AerophobiaFear of flying
AlgophobiaFear of pain
AlektorophobiaFear of chickens
AgoraphobiaFear of public spaces or crowds
AichmophobiaFear of needles or pointed objects
AmaxophobiaFear of riding in a car
AndrophobiaFear of men
AnginophobiaFear of angina or choking
AnthophobiaFear of flowers
AnthropophobiaFear of people or society
AphenphosmphobiaFear of being touched
ArachnophobiaFear of spiders
ArithmophobiaFear of numbers
AstraphobiaFear of thunder and lightning
AtaxophobiaFear of disorder or untidiness
AtelophobiaFear of imperfection
AtychiphobiaFear of failure
AutophobiaFear of being alone
B
BacteriophobiaFear of bacteria
BarophobiaFear of gravity
BathmophobiaFear of stairs or steep slopes
BatrachophobiaFear of amphibians
BelonephobiaFear of pins and needles
BibliophobiaFear of books
BotanophobiaFear of plants
C
CacophobiaFear of ugliness
CatagelophobiaFear of being ridiculed
CatoptrophobiaFear of mirrors
ChionophobiaFear of snow
ChromophobiaFear of colors
ChronomentrophobiaFear of clocks
ClaustrophobiaFear of confined spaces
CoulrophobiaFear of clowns
CyberphobiaFear of computers
CynophobiaFear of dogs
D
DendrophobiaFear of trees
DentophobiaFear of dentists
DomatophobiaFear of houses
DystychiphobiaFear of accidents
E
EcophobiaFear of the home
ElurophobiaFear of cats
EntomophobiaFear of insects
EphebiphobiaFear of teenagers
EquinophobiaFear of horses
F, G
GamophobiaFear of marriage
GenuphobiaFear of knees
GlossophobiaFear of speaking in public
GynophobiaFear of women
H
HeliophobiaFear of the sun
HemophobiaFear of blood
HerpetophobiaFear of reptiles
HydrophobiaFear of water
HypochondriaFear of illness
I-K
IatrophobiaFear of doctors
InsectophobiaFear of insects
KoinoniphobiaFear of rooms full of people
L
LeukophobiaFear of the color white
LilapsophobiaFear of tornadoes and hurricanes
LockiophobiaFear of childbirth
M
MageirocophobiaFear of cooking
MegalophobiaFear of large things
MelanophobiaFear of the color black
MicrophobiaFear of small things
MysophobiaFear of dirt and germs
N
NecrophobiaFear of death or dead things
NoctiphobiaFear of the night
NosocomephobiaFear of hospitals
NyctophobiaFear of the dark
O
ObesophobiaFear of gaining weight
OctophobiaFear of the figure 8
OmbrophobiaFear of rain
OphidiophobiaFear of snakes
OrnithophobiaFear of birds
P
PapyrophobiaFear of paper
PathophobiaFear of disease
PedophobiaFear of children
PhilophobiaFear of love
PhobophobiaFear of phobias
PodophobiaFear of feet
PogonophobiaFear of beards
PorphyrophobiaFear of the color purple
PteridophobiaFear of ferns
PteromerhanophobiaFear of flying
PyrophobiaFear of fire
Q-S
SamhainophobiaFear of Halloween
ScolionophobiaFear of school
SelenophobiaFear of the moon
SociophobiaFear of social evaluation
SomniphobiaFear of sleep
T
TachophobiaFear of speed
TechnophobiaFear of technology
ThalassophobiaFear of the ocean
TonitrophobiaFear of thunder
TrypanophobiaFear of needles or injections
U-Z
VenustraphobiaFear of beautiful women
VerminophobiaFear of germs
WiccaphobiaFear of witches and witchcraft
XenophobiaFear of strangers or foreigners
ZoophobiaFear of animals

FINDING HELP FOR PHOBIAS: If you have a phobia that affects your quality of life, there are organizations that can help you with your phobias:-

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI has both a phone and text crisis line.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIH): The NIH has a full list of resources for both immediate and long-term help.

Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (SAMHSA): The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a tool that can help you find mental health care services in your area.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, 24-hour helpline that can assist those who are in crisis.

Sources:

  1. 1.
    American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). archive.org. Published 2013. Accessed 2021. https://archive.org/details/diagnosticstatis0005unse/page/190/mode/2up
  2. 2.
    Hamm AO. Specific Phobias. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Published online September 2009:577-591. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2009.05.008
  3. 3.
    Winerman L. Figuring out phobia. apa. Published 2005. Accessed 2021. https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/figuring
  4. 4.
    Wolpe J. Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Cond Reflex. 1968;3(4):234-240. doi:10.1007/BF03000093
  5. 5.
    Iglesias A, Iglesias A, Iglesias A. I-95 phobia treated with hypnotic systematic desensitization: a case report. Am J Clin Hypn. 2013;56(2):143-151. doi:10.1080/00029157.2013.785930
  6. 6.
    Marshall J. Integrated treatment of social phobia. Bull Menninger Clin. 1995;59(2 Suppl A):A27-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7795569

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