What Is a Phobia?

Common Phobias

A phobia is a form of anxiety disorder characterized by an excessive and persistent fear of a situation, object, person, animal, or activity. When someone with a phobia is presented with a situation, object, person, animal, or activity, it causes extreme levels of fear, resulting in heightened anxiety within the person. In some cases, immense levels of fear can lead someone to have a panic attack or feel sudden, intense fear or nervousness when there is no sense of danger. 

Phobias impact the lives of approximately 19 million Americans that range in levels of severity. Phobias can develop throughout a person’s life, with some developing them in early childhood to adulthood. The typical age that people experience the onset of phobias is between the ages of 15-20. A phobia can develop from genetic or environmental factors.

Stressful or frightening situations or traumatic early childhood experiences can trigger them. Research has shown a combination of life experiences, brain chemistry, and genetics in complex phobias cases. No matter what your phobia is and how it developed, there is mental treatment help available to assist you in learning how to manage the symptoms of your phobia and learning how to overcome a mental health issue safely.

Click here to contact Alter Wellness Care today at 866-520-2943 to learn more about our highly structured clinical programs designed to overcome mental health conditions. 

How Is a Phobia Different from Normal Fear?

A phobia is different from experiencing normal sensations or feelings of fear. The differences can create confusion as similar or overlapping emotions can occur from fear and phobias. When you experience fear, it is a normal physical emotion that occurs to help alert or protect yourself from the presence of danger or harm.

Whereas a phobia is an intense, invasive fear of a specific thing that is not proportionate to the actual danger level that presents itself. Phobias can create strong physical responses and a lack of emotional regulation. A response to phobias can be avoiding certain places, people, or things to minimize the risk of experiencing severe forms of anxiety. While fears are something that can help keep us safe, phobias can create dysfunction and discord in your brain’s circuit that regulates the fear response. This can lead someone to feel higher levels of fear and sense imminent danger in situations that don’t require a heightened state of alertness.

3 Most Common Phobias

Three specific types can characterize phobias. The level of intensity of these phobias can differ from person to person and the impacts it has on a person’s daily functioning can vary. The three most common forms of phobias are:

  1. Agoraphobia: This type of phobia is characterized by an extreme and sometimes irrational fear of being unable to escape a place or of the embarrassment of trying to leave a room. This can include a fear of crowded rooms, being alone in your home or someone else’s home, traveling in a vehicle, going to busy places or establishments, or traveling in an elevator or bridge. Often when someone is living with agoraphobia, they tend to avoid specific places to ensure they don’t feel trapped or unsure how to exit or leave the situation. The immense feelings of anxiety that a person can feel with agoraphobia can often lead to panic attacks for many. For this reason, many living with agoraphobia tend to stay at home where they are safe from experiencing triggering situations and ensure they control their environment. People living with agoraphobia are at higher risk of developing depression, fatigue, substance use disorders, tension, and obsessive disorders. For this reason, anyone with agoraphobia must seek treatment from trained, experienced professionals to overcome agoraphobia safely.
  2. Social phobias: This type of phobia is more commonly called social anxiety disorder. This type of phobia is characterized by a heightened fear of social situations, especially when they feel judged, humiliated, embarrassed, or scorned by others. Even when a person can confront these fears and attend social settings, they often have intense feelings of fear, anxiety, or discomfort before attending a social setting or situation. During the social event, it’s common to feel highly uncomfortable or on edge and after leaving the social event, have feelings of worry, regret, or unpleasant emotions as you replay the social situation back in your head. Anyone living with social phobia can experience disruption in social, employment, or educational settings if they don’t receive the proper treatment for social phobia.
  3. Specific phobias: This last type of phobia is characterized by a fear of a specific object, animal, or situation. The types of specific phobias can be broken down into 4 categories:
    1. Fear of animals.
    2. Fear of the natural environment such as weather-related fears or natural disasters.
    3. Fear of situations including claustrophobia or aerophobia.
    4. Fear of medical issues or medical-related incidents.

Common Mental Phobias

20 Symptoms of Phobias

Every person will have their own unique experiences with phobias that can result in symptoms that can be physical, emotional, or behavioral. Common symptoms of phobias can include some of the following:

  1. Hot or cold flashes
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Chest pain or tightness
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Experiencing a choking sensation
  6. Elevated blood pressure
  7. Increased heart rate
  8. Excessive sweating
  9. Trembling
  10. Confusion
  11. Dizziness
  12. Nausea or vomiting
  13. Fear of losing control
  14. Fear of dying
  15. Having immense feelings of dread
  16. Panic attacks
  17. Intense or overwhelming sense of fear
  18. Feeling disconnected from your own body
  19. Having a feeling of needing to escape
  20. An impending sense of doom or that you’re in imminent danger

Can Phobias be Treated?

While phobias can have intense emotions and physical or psychological responses, there is hope to overcome phobias. There are mental health treatment methods that can include therapy and medications. Phobia treatment can include treatment measures such as:

  • Exposure therapy: This therapy method helps to gradually expose someone to their fears and triggers in a safe, supportive manner. As you become exposed to your fear, you’ll learn new methods of managing your fear or anxiety to overcome your triggers safely. 
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps you to identify the negative thoughts and emotions associated with your fear and learn how to replace those thoughts with positive ones. 
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing: EMDR is a form of trauma therapy that helps someone recover from traumatic experiences and addresses the underlying causes of their fear. 
  • Medications: You may be offered medications to help minimize the symptoms of your phobia including any anxiety you’re experiencing. Medications offered can include beta-blockers, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and anti-anxiety medications. 

Click here to contact Alter Wellness Care today at 866-520-2943 to learn more about our highly structured clinical programs designed to overcome mental health conditions. 

Alter Wellness Care Can Help With Common Phobias

At Alter Wellness, our experienced team of mental health professionals is dedicated to supporting patients in overcoming the symptoms and impacts of phobias. Our treatment approaches are conducted through a trauma-informed practice that fully supports you without experiencing trauma or emotional distress. We’ll provide you with evidence-based therapy methods that help you safely explore the emotions and experiences contributing to your phobias. As you address and heal from your phobias, our team will empower you to embrace a future free of fear or anxiety and have balanced, stable mental health functioning. Call our admission team today at 866-520-2943 — we’re here to answer your questions and help you begin the next chapter in your life.

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