Phobias are extreme reactions to ordinary things and events but if you have never had a phobia yourself, it can be difficult to understand when a friend or loved one develops an irrational fear of something.
Phobias appear bizarre to most people, and many sufferers, especially teens, are simply told to stop, even though their fear is out of their control. It is not difficult to see how a phobia sufferer could be suspected of acting out for attention. After all, most people never experience the level of fear that a phobia sufferer deals with when they have a phobic episode. Sufferers may know how strange they are acting, but are powerless to change their feelings because the fears are so irrational.
Understanding what a phobia sufferer goes through is important, so that you can relate to their experience and know what to do if they have a phobic response when you are around.
Although everyone is a little different, there are sets of physical reactions that go along with a phobic episode. Physical reactions include sweating, increased heart rate, nervousness, and some people can have a full-blown panic attack. Having a phobic reaction can be very confusing because the person reacts to something harmless as if it puts them in a life or death situation. A phobia sufferer may realize that their feelings are not justified, but they are still overtaken by feelings of panic and dread.
When you are under a lot of stress, your body experiences a biological process called the fight or flight response. This is basically the product of your brain perceiving a serious threat and adding adrenaline to your bloodstream, making you temporarily stronger, quicker, and more capable to act instinctively to overcome a potentially life threatening situation. The fight or flight response happens at various levels depending upon the perceived threat. Sometimes a little adrenaline is added to the bloodstream, while at other times your body is flooded with adrenaline.
Back in the times when our world was not so civilized, and they were continually struggling to survive, our ancient ancestors relied heavily on this response for their own survival. Even though the fight or flight response is not as important nowadays, it is a natural reaction that can be very useful, or harmful if it is triggered unnecessarily. This same response is responsible for reports of folks lifting very heavy objects off people and other extraordinary physical feats.
In wild animals, the fight or flight response is even more marked. For example, it is not uncommon for a deer that has been shot through both lungs and the heart to run the length of a football pitch, or for several miles as if these vital organs were not hit.
When somebody has a true phobia, these are the powerful feelings that they have to contend with, but rather than escaping an impending danger, they are reacting to a spider, snake, clown, or another stimulus that triggers their phobia. What is worse is that phobias strike in every day places such as work, school, or social occasions where the fight or flight response is very inappropriate.
There is a long list of different phobias, but most are the result of something from a person’s past or a fear that has been instilled in them. It makes no difference if the sufferer knows they are overreacting to a certain trigger, since they are powerless to stop their phobic reaction.
Treatment methods do exist, but a little bit of understanding goes a long way. Knowing more about phobias can only help if you know someone who if suffering from one.