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Useful Information about Phobias

written by: Rene Wolf • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/18/2011

Unlike the temporary feeling of anxiety that someone experiences when they encounter a spider or take a test, a phobia is an intense and overwhelming fear of specific objects and/or situations. This article provides the reader with plenty of useful information about phobias.

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    When someone suffers with a phobia they are aware of the fact that their fears are unreasonable. Information about phobias is readily available, but the disorder typically prevents phobics from seeking help and so their phobia persists. This can be devastating, induce panic attacks and cause severe anxiety.

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    Information About Phobias: Different Categories of Phobias

    There are three main categories of phobias: specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia.

    Specific phobias: This category of phobias is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses. Specific phobias include a fear of a specific person, place or thing - for example the fear of spiders (Arachnophobia), water (hydrophobia), hair (Chaetophobia) or animals (zoophobia). Criteria for a diagnosis of specific phobia includes:

    • Knowing that the fear is irrational but, continue to feel powerless in controlling it
    • Avoiding the fear at any cost
    • Immediate anxiety response when the fear is confronted
    • No other explanation for the symptoms such as medical problems

    Social phobia: Social phobia is a combination of a fear of being humiliated in public, fears of others thinking negatively about you and extreme self-consciousness. The criteria for social phobia include:

    • An intense and persistent fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in a social situation
    • Knowing the fear is irrational but, unable to control it
    • Avoiding social situations out of fear of extreme stress
    • Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks when exposed to social situations
    • The phobia has created difficulties in lifestyle such as work, relationships and activities
    • No other explanation for the symptoms you experience such as a medical condition

    Agoraphobia: Although this means the fear of open spaces, it actually refers to anxiety brought on by being in a place or situation where escape is not easy such as an elevator, traveling on public transportation, and standing in a line. Criteria for a diagnosis of agoraphobia include:

    • Avoiding situations that could provoke anxiety or extreme stress
    • Irrational fear of being somewhere that would prevent you from escaping or finding help if you should have a panic attack.
    • In severe cases, the person may not leave their home
    • No other explanation for the symptoms such as medical or psychological illnesses.
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    Information about Phobias: Common phobias

    There are hundreds of different types of phobias ranging from extremely rare and unusual to phobias of items, places or people that are typically encountered daily. Some of the more common phobias are:

    • Dogs (Cynophobia)
    • Horses(Equinophobia)
    • Spiders(Male goliath birdeater spider: Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders )
    • Snakes(Ophidiophobia)
    • Fear of flying (Pteromerhanophobia)
    • Heights (Acrophobia)
    • Confined spaces (Claustrophobia)
    • Blood (Hemophobia)

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    Treatments

    The primary goal of treatment is to reduce the fear, reduce anxiety and to educate the individual with techniques to help manage reactions to the situation or object that is the cause of the phobia.

    Treatment typically includes a combination of therapy and medications. Medications are usually prescribed to help with the symptoms of the phobia, while the therapy will help the person to cope with and manage the fear. Therapy may include exposure or behavior therapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. During exposure therapy the person is gradually introduced to the source of their fear, until they are capable of managing their anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to educate the person with information about phobias and to teach them new ways of effectively controlling their thoughts, feelings and fears.

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Phobias http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phobias/DS00272

    Medline Plus: Phobias http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/phobias.html

    Picture credit: Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license