Face Your Fears: A Look At Phobias

Brian Sommer, Staff Writer

Fears or phobias are nothing to be taken lightly. According to WebMd.com, over six million people suffer from phobias in the United States alone. Phobias are a lasting and unreasonable fear caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that usually poses little or no actual danger. Somebody who has a phobia experiences intense anxiety when exposed to the situation or object.

There are many different types of phobias, ranging from different situations, natural environments, blood phobias, and even animal phobias, such as arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders.

There are many causes and explanations for phobias. Some reasons for a person having a phobia may be due to the fact that that person had a bad experience with the certain object or situation, or have seen someone become affected by a certain object or situation. Examples would be like sitting next to someone who has a fear of flying, or seeing someone have a panic attack after seeing blood.

Men, women, and children’s lives, when suffering from phobias are greatly affected. The following symptoms not only cause distress in the person’s life, but also those close to them due to the stress and panic that it brings along. Symptoms of a phobia usually start around an excessive or irrational fear around a situation or object of some sort which comes with either avoiding it or enduring it with much suffering. After the fear, physical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, shaking or trembling, and even numbness start to set in. Lastly, one may begin to feel that the fear of the situation or object is much more than the situation or object itself.

Webmd.com also states that the first step in being diagnosed with a phobia is to go through a long trial of questions from a doctor regarding what you may fear and the symptoms that are brought along from that fear. Shortly after, physical tests will be done, like one’s heart rate caused by another source to see if the phobia is real; prescription medication may be prescribed to help deal with the phobia.

Along with the symptoms, to be diagnosed with a certain phobia a person must react in an extreme ways. For instance, a patient with arachnophobia must be much more afraid of spiders than the common person. Secondly, a state of panic is brought upon the patient by the presence of a spider, whether it is right in front of them or outside a window of some sort. Third, there must be no other option than avoiding the spider at all costs throughout any day. The final indication to become diagnosed with arachnophobia is that the fear of the spider must cause the patient to stay away from everyday tasks, whether it is going to down to the basement of their home or going out for a daily jog.

Once you have been diagnosed with a phobia, you can be treated for it. According to Yujuan Choy, MD, of the University of California Irvine Student Health Center from Psychweekly.com, most treatments for specific phobias involve exposure therapy. Let’s continue to use arachnophobia as an example: the first step for a patient would be to openly talk about spiders and not have any problem, sense of panic or anxiety regarding the conversation. After the patient is able to endure that with no problem, they begin different types of visual therapy, which would be to see a spider in a case or cage of some sort with no way of the spider reaching the patient. Then, the patient must be able to be in the same room as this spider with no problem. After the visual therapy trial is finished, the patient would move on the contact therapy, which is rather risky for someone with a phobia. In this therapy the patient must tackle the phobia head on. For example, in the case of arachnophobia, the patient would have to become open to holding or feeling a spider with no problem; however, this is the most dangerous of the therapies because this could cause a mental relapse.

A phobia is not something to be taken lightly, but those with phobias should know that the fear can be treated professionally.