Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder based on a debilitating and extreme fear of a place, situation, animal, or feeling. It is often irrational, either by its very nature or because of the level of fear experienced, often leading patients to go to great lengths to avoid the source of that fear.
There are many different types of phobias, but we can group them into two main categories: specific/simple phobias and complex phobias.
Simple phobias, also known as specific phobias, typically develop in childhood or adolescence. These include animal phobias, environmental phobias (e.g., heights, germs, deep water), body phobias (e.g., blood, vomiting, injections), sexual phobias (e.g., STIs, performance anxiety), and situational phobias (e.g., flying, visiting hospitals, stage fright, etc.).
Complex phobias usually develop in adulthood and involve intense fear and/or anxiety about a particular situation. The most common phobias are agoraphobia and social phobia. These tend to be more debilitating than simple phobias, seriously affecting patients’ lives.
The most common phobias are:
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders).
- Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes).
- Acrophobia (fear of heights).
- Claustrophobia (fear of small spaces).
- Agoraphobia (fear of open places and public).
Symptoms Of Phobias
Some people with phobias may not experience symptoms until they are faced with what they fear. In contrast, others may panic just thinking about it. As an anxiety disorder, the following symptoms may epitomize:
This symptom contains sweating, abnormal breathing, fast heartbeat, tremors, chills, chest pain, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, etc.
It has distorted thoughts regarding the situation or stimulus.
It has the avoidance of the feared situation or stimulus.
The most common symptoms of phobias are:
- Distorted and disproportionate thoughts to the stimulus.
- Abnormal breathing.
- Acceleration of the heartbeat.
- Tremors, chills.
Types Of Phobias
There are 3 categories of phobias known as:
This phobia fears being in situations where the person cannot escape or ask for help, such as shops, churches, elevators, etc.
Social phobia is the fear of being seen or judged while doing a social activity such as teaching a class, eating in front of others, etc.
It is fears of particular objects or situations, for example, phobia of animals, heights, etc.
When Do They Appear?
Most phobias begin in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. A stressful situation can cause them a traumatic event, or a family member with a phobia can also imitate them, and a child ends up making it their own.
When a person faces the feared stimulus (animals, heights, exams, social gatherings, etc.), severe anxiety manifests with physical and psychological symptoms.
Diagnosis Of Phobias
The diagnosis of a phobia is the basis of the clinical evaluation by a specialist in Psychiatry.
Phobias present quite characteristic symptoms and signs, which means that it is unnecessary in many cases to carry out any other diagnostic test.
- Diagnostic interview.
- Suppose it is suspected that it may have an organic cause. In that case, it is advisable to carry out other tests such as magnetic resonance imaging, laboratory tests, and other specialists’ evaluations.
- Psychodiagnostic tests.
Treatment For Phobias
Behavior therapy is one of the most effective treatments for phobias. Sometimes it may be necessary to combine it with psychopharmacological treatment to reduce the physical symptoms that accompany the phobia and thus help the person cope with the situation.
Psychotherapeutic treatment consists of:
- Progressive exposure to phobic stimuli.
- Training in anxiety management techniques.
- Cognitive restructuring aimed at battling the catastrophic ideas that these people may present.