A phobia is a strong but irrational fear of something specific, usually an object, situation, person, or experience. Having a phobia at some point in your life, especially when you are an adult, is common.
Genetic and environmental factors can cause phobias. Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are at risk of developing a phobia. Distressing events such as nearly drowning can bring on a phobia. Exposure to confined spaces, extreme heights and animal or insect bites can all be sources of phobias.
Different people have different types of phobias. Lots of people fear spiders. Spiders may give some the heebie-jeebies. Some people’s chest feels heavy when aeroplane the taxis along the runway. Some of us fear darkness, heights, deep waters. Children sometimes fear something from their surroundings and it becomes a phobia.
Sometimes, being confronted with these fears brings on a barrage of anxiety symptoms like sweaty palms, an increased heart rate, quick breathing, shivering body, stomach ache, etc. Some have mild symptoms, while some experience moderate to severe symptoms.
Talking treatments, such as counselling, are often very effective at treating phobias.
Exposure therapy: The best treatment for specific phobias is a form of psychotherapy called exposure therapy. Sometimes your doctor may also recommend other therapies or medication.
For example, suppose you’re afraid of elevators. In that case, your therapy may progress from simply thinking about getting into an elevator, to looking at pictures of elevators, to going near an elevator, to stepping into an elevator. Next, you may take a one-floor ride, ride several floors, and then ride in a crowded elevator.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT involves exposure combined with other techniques to learn ways to view and cope with the feared object or situation differently. You learn alternative beliefs about your fears and bodily sensations and the impact they’ve had on your life. CBT emphasises learning to develop a sense of mastery and confidence with your thoughts and feelings rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.
Generally, psychotherapy used in exposure therapy is successful in treating phobias. However, medicines can also be used to overcome an anxiety attack and exposed to objects which you fear.
Medication used during initial treatment for a short-term: