Fears and Phobias Defined

Phobias are the most common psychiatric illness among women of all ages, and the second most common illness among men older than 25. Phobias are thought to be caused by a combination of biological factors and life events, much in the way other disorders (such as diabetes or heart disease) are influenced by a person's genes and lifestyle. Phobias are more than extreme fear, they are irrational fear.

Phobias are the most easily treated of all psychological issues, with successful treatment being achieved in some cases within a few hours. They are seen as maladaptive learned responses which are able to be corrected by learning new ways of responding. The general symptoms of phobias include the following: Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror; recognition that the fear goes beyond what is considered normal and is out of proportion to the actual threat of danger; reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, and seem to take over the person's thoughts; rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to escape the situation. Extreme measures are often taken to avoid the feared object or situation.

Sometimes they start in childhood for no apparent reason; sometimes they emerge after a traumatic event; and sometimes the develop from an attempt to make sense of an unexpected and intense anxiety or panic (e. Some individuals can simply avoid the subject of their fear and suffer only relatively mild anxiety over that fear. When the anxiety has gone, remind yourself that you have survived, and have not gone mad, lost control or died. When and where to seek further help If your phobias are interfering with your ability to lead a full, normal life and you do not make any progress in challenging them yourself. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety or distress, and you seem to be feeling like this often. If you are avoiding situations that matter or if you suffer from overwhelming blushing / trembling / sweating in social situations or feel that you lack social skills, you may be more prone. Studies have also shown that the occurrence or anticipation of stressful life events, anxiety in childhood, over-protective parental behaviour and substance abuse are common among people with panic disorder.

Treatment exists to help people with phobias and panic disorder, and research into new therapies and techniques continues. During therapy, a person can slowly learn to become comfortable with the situation or object through exposure treatment or reconditioning. If the object of fear is easy to avoid, people with phobias may not feel the need to seek treatment.

Most individuals understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their initial panic reaction. Even professional entertainers can experience cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, and light-headedness when they step out in front of an audience. Group therapy has also been successful in providing social phobics with a supportive circle of people who can empathize with their experience and serve as a significant first rebellion against the very nature of the disease.

Psychologists have categorized as many as 500 phobias, and according to the estimates of some health professionals, as many as 50 million individuals in the United States suffer from some kind of phobia.

Glossophobia, a fear of public speaking, is one of the most common of phobias and one that must be overcome by many individuals who find themselves in the position of having to make a speech to a group of people for business, professional, or educational reasons .

Phobias are in fact a fear of being afraid and demonstrate the brain's ability to learn instantly, potentially a very effective survival mechanism. If you are interested in finding out more about phobias and what you can do to relieve them, they are listed alphabetically and indexed by their definitions on the website.