To many of us, this word “Phobia” creates a large volume of anxiety. When this word is seen or come under the discussion topic, the feel of our greatest fear just come alive in front of our eyes.
What on earth is this Phobia?
Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation. The phobia typically results in a rapid onset of fear and stays for more than six months. The affected person, goes great lengths to avoid the situation or object, to a degree greater than the actual danger posed. If the feared object or situation cannot be avoided, the affected person simply then suffers from distress. Usually a person has phobias to a number of objects or situations.
This Phobia also got classified. What are they?
Any idea on classification. Let me enlighten you. It is classified in 3 parts – Specific Phobia, Social Phobia and the Agoraphobia.
- Specific Phobia – Fear of particular objects or social situations that immediately results in anxiety and can sometimes lead to panic attacks. Specific phobia may be further subdivided into five categories: animal type, natural environment type, situational type, blood-injection-injury type, and other.
- Agoraphobia – This is a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar ‘safe’ area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow. It may also be caused by various specific phobias such as fear of open spaces, social embarrassment (social agoraphobia), fear of contamination (fear of germs, possibly complicated by obsessive-compulsive disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) related to a trauma that occurred out of doors.
- Social Phobia –
Let’s find how our Brain reacts to this Phobia
It turns out that phobias are associated with major alterations in brain activity as detected by functional imaging studies. Individuals who suffer from phobias have been shown to display increased activity of the amygdala when exposed to phobia-inducing stimuli, noted on functional MRI. The amygdala is known to be associated with emotional reactions. One observation is that the right amygdala is more highly reactive in response to negative emotions, such as those associated with phobias, while the left amygdala is more strongly associated with pleasant emotional reactions. Interestingly, one study suggested that the higher the activation of the right amygdala, the greater the sense of distress induced by the phobia trigger.
The stria terminalis, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the insula were found to be hyperactivated in individuals who experienced sustained exposure to phobia-inducing pictures in an experimental setting. This suggests that prolonged exposure to phobia-inducing stimuli does not necessarily ‘quiet down’ brain activity as would be expected, but actually engages more areas of the brain.
The below image will give you an idea of the brain parts:
This make living with a severe phobia even more distressing, people who have phobias also experience an exaggerated expectation that they may encounter the object of their phobia. This is called expectancy bias, and it also has a correlation with brain activity. Researchers have found that among people who suffer from phobias, expectancy bias is highly associated with under activity of the lateral prefrontal cortex and the visual cortex. Based on the known roles of these areas, study authors explained this finding as a deficiency of cognitive control in relation to the phobia-inducing object, which serves to prime an individual suffering from phobia to anticipate an encounter with the object of distress for example a rope may appear to be a snake, even in a setting where there are no snakes. Spilled cocoa may evoke fears of blood and thread may appear to be a spider.
Have you ever heard the idiom “Self Help is the Best Help”. Why not find some self help and curse this Phobia
Phobia self-help tip 1: Face your fears, one step at a time
It’s only natural to want to avoid the thing or situation you fear. But when it comes to conquering phobias, facing your fears is the key. While avoidance may make you feel better in the short-term, it prevents you from learning that your phobia may not be as frightening or overwhelming as you think. You never get the chance to learn how to cope with your fears and experience control over the situation. As a result, the phobia becomes increasingly scarier and more daunting in your mind.
Exposure: Gradually and repeatedly facing your fears
The most effective way to overcome a phobia is by gradually and repeatedly exposing yourself to what you fear in a safe and controlled way. During this exposure process, you’ll learn to ride out the anxiety and fear until it inevitably passes.
Through repeated experiences facing your fear, you’ll begin to realize that the worst isn’t going to happen; you’re not going to die or “lose it.” With each exposure, you’ll feel more confident and in control. The phobia begins to lose its power.
Successfully facing your fears takes planning, practice, and patience. The following tips will help you get the most out of the exposure process.
Climbing up the “fear ladder”
If you’ve tried exposure in the past and it didn’t work, you may have started with something too scary or overwhelming. It’s important to begin with a situation that you can handle, and work your way up from there, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the “fear ladder.”
Make a list. Make a list of the frightening situations related to your phobia. If you’re afraid of flying, your list (in addition to the obvious, such as taking a flight or getting through takeoff) might include booking your ticket, packing your suitcase, driving to the airport, watching planes take off and land, going through security, boarding the plane, and listening to the flight attendant present the safety instructions.
Build your fear ladder. Arrange the items on your list from the least scary to the most scary. The first step should make you slightly anxious, but not so frightened that you’re too intimidated to try it. When creating the ladder, it can be helpful to think about your end goal (for example, to be able to be near dogs without panicking) and then break down the steps needed to reach that goal.
Work your way up the ladder. Start with the first step (in this example, looking at pictures of dogs) and don’t move on until you start to feel more comfortable doing it. If at all possible, stay in the situation long enough for your anxiety to decrease. The longer you expose yourself to the thing you’re afraid of, the more you’ll get used to it and the less anxious you’ll feel when you face it the next time. If the situation itself is short (for example, crossing a bridge), do it over and over again until your anxiety starts to lessen. Once you’ve done a step on several separate occasions without feeling too much anxiety, you can move on to the next step. If a step is too hard, break it down into smaller steps or go slower.
Practice. It’s important to practice regularly. The more often you practice, the quicker your progress will be. However, don’t rush. Go at a pace that you can manage without feeling overwhelmed. And remember: you will feel uncomfortable and anxious as you face your fears, but the feelings are only temporary. If you stick with it, the anxiety will fade. Your fears won’t hurt you.
Facing a fear of dogs: A sample fear ladder
Tip 2: Learn to calm down quickly
When you’re afraid or anxious, you experience a variety of uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as a racing heart and a suffocating feeling. These physical sensations can be frightening themselves—and a large part of what makes your phobia so distressing. However, by learning how to calm yourself down quickly, you can become more confident in your ability to tolerate uncomfortable sensations and face your fears.
Perform a simple deep breathing exercise
When you’re anxious, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths (known as hyperventilating), which actually adds to the physical feelings of anxiety. By breathing deeply from the abdomen, you can reverse these physical sensations and feel less tense, less short of breath, and less anxious. Practice when you’re feeling calm until you’re familiar and comfortable with the exercise.
- Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Take a slow breath in through your nose, counting to four. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Inhale again, repeating the cycle until you feel relaxed and centered.
- Practice this deep breathing technique for five minutes twice day. When you’re comfortable with the technique, you can use it when you’re facing your phobia or in another stressful situation.
Use your senses
One of the quickest and most reliable ways to relieve anxiety is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—or through movement. But since everyone is different, you’ll need to do some experimenting to discover what works best for you.
Movement – Go for a walk, jump up and down, or gently stretch. Dancing, drumming, and running can be especially effective at relieving anxiety.
Sight – Look at anything that relaxes you or makes you smile: a beautiful view, family photos, cat pictures on the Internet.
Sound – Listen to soothing music, sing a favorite tune, or play a musical instrument. Or enjoy the relaxing sounds of nature (either live or recorded): ocean waves, wind through the trees, birds singing.
Smell – Light scented candles. Smell the flowers in a garden. Breathe in the clean, fresh air. Spritz on your favorite perfume.
Taste – Slowly eat a favorite treat, savoring each bite. Sip a cup of coffee or herbal tea. Chew on a stick of gum. Enjoy a mint or your favorite hard candy.
Touch – Give yourself a hand or neck massage. Cuddle a pet. Wrap yourself in a soft blanket. Sit outside in the cool breeze.
Tip 3: Challenge negative thoughts about your phobia
When you have a phobia, you tend to overestimate how bad it will be if you’re exposed to the situation you fear and underestimate your ability to cope. The anxious thoughts that trigger and fuel phobias are usually negative and unrealistic. By writing down the negative thoughts you have when confronted by your phobia, you can begin to challenge these unhelpful ways of thinking. Many times, these thoughts fall into the following categories:
Fortune telling. For example, “This bridge is going to collapse;” “I’ll make a fool of myself for sure;” “I will definitely lose it when the elevator doors close.”
Overgeneralization. “I fainted once while getting a shot. I’ll never be able to get a shot again without passing out;” “That pit bull lunged at me. All dogs are dangerous.”
Catastrophizing. “The captain said we’re going through turbulence. The plane is going to crash!” “The person next to me coughed. Maybe it’s swine flu. I’m going to get very sick!”
Once you’ve identified your negative thoughts, evaluate them. Use the following example to get started.
Negative thought: “The elevator will break down and I’ll get trapped and suffocate.”
It’s also helpful to come up with some positive coping statements that you can tell yourself when facing your phobia. For example:
There are also other stories of treating this phobia and we are going to explore them too.
Talking treatments, such as counselling and psychotherapy, are often very effective methods for treating phobias. In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulnesshave been found to be very effective methods of treating phobias.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of counselling that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It can be used to develop practical ways of dealing with your phobia.
One part of the CBT treatment process that’s often used to treat simple phobias involves gradual exposure to your fear, so you feel less anxious about it. This is known as desensitisation or exposure therapy.
For example, if you have a fear of snakes (ophidiophobia), your therapist may start by asking you to read about snakes. They may later show you a picture of a snake. They may then arrange for you to visit the reptile house of your local zoo to look at some real snakes. The final step would be for you to hold a snake.
Exposure therapy works by gradually increasing the level of exposure to your fear, which allows you to gain control over your phobia. As the treatment progresses, you should begin to feel less anxious about your phobia.
Medication isn’t usually recommended for treating phobias, because talking therapies are usually effective and don’t have any side effects. However, medication is sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis to treat the effects of phobias such as anxiety.
Three types of medication are recommended for treating anxiety. These are:
Antidepressants are often prescribed to help reduce anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most often prescribed to treat anxiety, social phobia or panic disorder.
Venlafaxine (Efexor), a serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) may also be prescribed for anxiety.
Common side effects of these treatments include:
- sleep problems
- upset stomach
They may also, initially, make your anxiety worse and can cause sexual problems.
Clomipramine (Anafranil) is a type of tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) that’s licensed to treat phobias. Side effects include:
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- tremors (shaking)
- palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
- difficulty urinating
Moclobemide (Manerix) is a type of antidepressant from the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) group of antidepressants. It’s sometimes prescribed to treat social phobia.
Moclobemide interacts with certain types of food, so if you’re prescribed this medication, read the information leaflet that comes with it to find out which foods to avoid.
Other possible side effects of moclobemide include:
- sleep problems
- stomach problems
If you’re prescribed antidepressants, it’s very important that you don’t suddenly stop taking them. Suddenly stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms. See your GP, who can gradually lower your dose.
Benzodiazepines are a group of medicines that are categorised as minor tranquillisers. They include medicines such as diazepam (Valium) and are sometimes used on a short-term basis at the lowest possible dose to treat severe anxiety.
Like antidepressants, benzodiazepines should be stopped gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Beta-blockers are often used to treat cardiovascular conditions, such as heart problems and high blood pressure (hypertension). They are also sometimes prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations (irregular heartbeat).
Beta-blockers slow down your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. Propranolol (Inderal) is a beta-blocker that’s commonly used to treat anxiety. Possible side effects include:
- stomach problems
- cold fingers
- sleep problems
Few well-known face suffered from their own phobia
- The designer of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel was allegedly afraid of heights. Yet he design the tower.
- Jennifer Aniston as well as Tony Curtis (who supposedly turned to hypnosis to cure it), John Madden, Muhammad Ali, Cher and Johnny Cash have all admitted to the extreme fear of flying. Do you think that they never board an air transport!!! They did they overcomed it.
- Madonna is supposedly very scared of thunderstorms.