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What are Phobias?
A phobia can be defined as an intense or overwhelming fear of something which presents, in reality very little real danger but still provokes avoidance. There are many phobias but the most common include fear of heights, spiders, needles, and small spaces
People with phobias are usually aware that the fear is irrational yet are unable to control the feelings they experience when confronted with the object or situation which elicits that fear. In severe cases just thinking about the fear can bring on anxiety or even a full blown panic attack.
The experience can be very scary; many will change their lifestyle so not to encounter the phobia face on. If you are scared of small spaces for example, you may turn down the chance of attending an interview in fear of having to go into the lift. If you are scared of heights you may drive twenty minutes down the road in order to avoid crossing a high bridge.
It is important to recognise that the first step to overcoming a phobia is to understand it. Having a phobia of some sort does not mean you are ‘crazy’. Take comfort in the fact no matter how out of control you feel, there are ways to bring these extreme feelings back under your control.
Phobia or normal fear?
Fear provides a protective purpose, alerting our bodies to the fact that we need to act quickly in order to protect ourselves. This is called the “Fight or Flight” response. The “fight or flight” response is a primitive and automatic reaction which prepares our body to “fight”, or to run away “flight” in the event of a perceived threat. This in dangerous circumstances is completely normal and could actually save your life.
However with a phobia this fear is exaggerated. There is a perception of danger at a level far greater than that which actually exists. For example it is completely acceptable to be scared of a Doberman snarling at you but if you experience intense fear at the sight of a friendly little puppy you could potentially have a phobia of dogs.
Fears in childhood years
Lots of childhood fears such as being scared of the dark are completely natural and developed at specific ages. These forms of fears usually disappear as the child gets older.
There is very little reason to be concerned if the fear is not affecting the child’s day to day living. But if it does show signs of interfering with social activities and sleep you may want to seek advice.
The three categories of phobias
Generally there are three main categories of phobias as described below:
- Specific Phobias – include fear of animals, birds, spiders, driving, flying, height, thunder storms, needles etc.
- Social Phobias – Characterised by a fear of being negatively judged by others in such situations as parties, meetings, public speaking, eating out, using public conveniences etc.
- Agoraphobia – Commonly this includes fear of open spaces, fear of crowded shopping centres, cinemas or supermarkets also places where escape is perceived to be difficult. Many people with Agoraphobia will find themselves unable to leave their homes, preferring to stay at home, where it is “safe”
What are the symptoms of a phobia?
The symptoms can vary from a mild touch of apprehension through to panic attacks. In typical situations the closer you are to the source of the fear the greater the symptoms.
Common physical symptoms include:
- A racing heart beat.
- Tightness in chest.
- Trembling limbs.
- Dizzy spells
Common emotional symptoms include:
- Feelings of anxiety.
- Losing control.
- Fear of dying.
- The intense need to escape the situation
- Feeling helpless or powerless
How do people get phobias?
A person could develop a phobia as a result of:
- a single traumatic or frightening event, for example waking up one morning whilst camping and seeing a rat in your tent.
- an accumulation of frightening events over a period of time.
- learned behaviour from a parent or sibling. for example. If, when you were young one of your parents had a phobia for wasps. It would be likely that you would also learn to be fearful of wasps as a result of their actions. (screaming in fear, flapping their arms whilst running away)
When should a person seek help?
If your fear or phobia has developed to such an extent that it interferes with the enjoyment of your live on a day to day basis then it may be time to seek help
If you find yourself making excuses for why you are avoiding certain things or situations then it may be time to seek help
If you are fed up of being at the end of this fear and want to feel calm confident and in control once more then it is definitely time to seek help.
Don’t suffer in silence, seek help today
Remember all you have to lose is your fear.
How do I book an appointment?
I offer a free no obligation 30 minute consultation where we can discuss your specific situation. I will walk you through my suggested method of addressing your issue and answer any questions you may have.
If at the end of the consultation we feel that we could work effectively together, we would then go ahead and schedule your first appointment. If for whatever reason you do not wish to continue or I do not feel that I am the right person to help you, the consultation ends there and there is nothing to pay.
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All you have to lose is your Fear.