Phobias are defined according to the American Psychiatric Association, as an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. Phobias usually develop in late childhood, adolescence, or early adult life in response to a frightening event or situation.
Phobias are the most common mental disorder in the United States. Far more women than men are affected by phobias. Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the world. Phobias can deeply impact a person’s life.
Types of Phobias
Phobias belong to a large group of mental problems known as anxiety disorders that include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Social phobia and situational phobias, such as fear of heights or of closed-in spaces, typically appear by the mid-20s.
The causes of complex phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia, are unclear. Sometimes phobias run in families. Phobias are persistent, irrational fears of objects or situations that persist even though the fear has no base in current reality.
Symptoms of a phobia include the following: Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation. Symptoms can last several hours, but usually peak after 10 minutes. Symptoms of Phobias can interfere with your ability to work, socialize, and go about a daily routine.
One of the most successful is cognitive behavioral therapy which helps people with phobias face up to their fears, control their symptoms and in time accepting of whatever was causing their extreme anxiety. Therapy for anxiety disorders often involves medication or specific forms of psychotherapy. Supportive therapy, such as group therapy, or couple or family therapy, and to educate significant others about the disorder is also helpful.
In addition to conventional medicine, alternative treatments such as relaxation and deep breathing techniques as well as herbal and homeopathic remedies may be very helpful along with psychotherapy.
Phobias are among the most treatable mental health problems. Depending on the severity of the condition and the type of phobia, most properly treated patients can go on to lead normal lives. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, only about 10 percent of reported cases become life-long phobias. In fact, most people who seek treatment of phobias completely overcome their fears for life.
The good news is that with a proper mindset in place and the right tools to face life’s daily challenges, facing our anxiety phobias and fears can get much easier over time.