What is a phobia? There are a lot of anxiety conditions out there that people have to deal with daily. Some are common and things we've heard of like agoraphobia and social phobia and some are less common or less well known. These conditions arise when the preoccupation with worry has become so acute that you are no longer engaging in your normal routines.
Some of the common fears that can turn into angst driven nightmares are normal things that many people get nervous over but don't avoid entirely. For example, many phobias center on the fear of going to the dentist, fear of thunder or lightning, fear of illness or fear of animals or elevators. Some of these fears don't have a daily impact on our lives but they can have long term effects on our health or mental well being.
A phobia is simply an irrational fear that is intense and persistent. The fear is directed at a particular activity, situation or person. People with these problems will go to almost any length to avoid that which they fear. If you are worried about going to the dentist, decades may pass without a visit, you may ignore tooth pain, and try ways to self medicate or simply ignore the discomfort and hope it goes away.
This approach could of course leave you with a serious medical problem. These conditions make you avoid activities and people even if you know you should not.
More than 10% of the American population suffers from excessive fear at one time or another. Phobias also affect more women than men. Most specific disorders like fear of animals, fear of the elevator and fear of airplanes can usually be explained by some triggering or traumatic event that happened in your formative fears.
A close encounter with a dog, a dog bite or threat might lead to a lifetime fear or anxiousness around dogs. The triggering event doesn't have to be that obvious though, it could be you were scared by a TV program and had bad dreams about that topic for a few nights and developed an intense fear.
Both specific phobias and more pervasive problems like social phobia and agoraphobia can be dealt with. You can stop avoiding the things that frighten you and tackle new experiences in your life. Don't let worry control your life any longer. Go see your daughter's play, talk to your boss about a raise, and ask out the cute receptionist you've been in love with for years.
There are solutions for every problem; you just have to find them. A good starting point in conquering your fear is to rationalize the apprehension. You have to convince yourself that there really is no reason for the intense dread you feel. You may have been bitten by a dog when you were young but that doesn't mean every dog will bite you. Some dogs are very nice, think Lassie.
While you may not be eager to adopt a furry four legged friend from the animal shelter, you also don't need to cross the street every time you see a dog or avoid going to people's houses that have dogs. When you encounter uncomfortable things, like a dog, be armed with some positive thoughts to counteract your body's adrenaline surge and the temptation to flee as quickly as possible.