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What is a phobia?

Phobia: An Extreme or Irrational Aversion to Something

By Ha Le SaPublished 3 months ago ā€¢ 9 min read
What is a phobia?
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Typically, a phobia is a specific aspect of anxiety disorder, as the response caused when encountering an object. A phobia is a severe fear of a particular situation or object, that is generally unreasonable. A phobia often has a direct impact on the life of an affected person. Someone who senses panic if his house is on fire is not experiencing a phobia; this response of anxiety is perfectly reasonable since the person is encountering a situation that may result in bodily harm or death. Someone experiencing an extreme level of anxiety, perhaps related to a quickened breathing and heartbeat and a general sense of panic, when confronted by a common spider is experiencing a phobia, as this reaction is unreasonable. A severely phobic person tries to avoid his fear in each possible situation. He attempts to structure his life around avoiding as much as possible, no matter what is making him terrified.

Multiple phobias have extremely debilitating consequences on life, lifestyle, and relationships of people. A phobia also has a direct negative impact on an individual's life and ability to function. Psychologically, it is defined as,

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger.

Intense fear of water can impact an individual's power to swim, bathe, enjoy a rainy day, and even drink a glass of water. The various phobias can affect people in different ways, but they are generally linked to a particular stimulus that triggers the panic or fear response. Phobias are identified as the most commonly occurring form of anxiety disorder.

Types of phobia:

  • Nature phobias
  • Situation phobias
  • Animal phobias
  • Medical treatment phobias
  • Nature phobias

These phobias include anxiety about landscapes such as water, plants, etc. Nature phobias are fears of natural happenings and situations that occur naturally, such as thunderstorms, lightning, etc.

  • Situation phobias

A situational phobia is the fear of certain situations. People with these phobias try to avoid the situation despite everything, which can majorly interfere with their lives. These include fear of flying, failure, etc.

  • Animal phobias

Animal phobias are feelings of anxiety while facing specific animals; the fear of animals is generally termed zoophobia. These are the most typical kinds of specific phobias. This category includes the fear of spiders, amphibians, etc.

  • Medical treatment phobias

Medical phobias involve intense fears of medical treatments, the people administering medical care, or illnesses that require medical therapy such as fear of injections, doctors, etc.

On the level of intensity, phobias are not equally divided and are classified as:

  • Simple phobia
  • Complex phobia
  • Simple phobia

It is the type of phobia with a specific trigger: they are connected to something that can be easily identified. Simple phobias, generally, do not have much influence on the everyday lives of the recipients of the phobia. For example, you might have a fear of snakes, but for the average person, avoiding snakes in everyday life is fairly easy, so your phobia does not affect you very often as a result.

  • Complex phobia

The things that most frequently trigger complex kinds of phobias are not only difficult to identify but also more difficult to avoid as well. Social anxiety and agoraphobia are known as complex phobias.

What are some possible causes of phobias?

There are different theories behind the development of a particular phobia in an individual. Freudians assume there is some psychological, most likely, sexual significance in the phobias you choose to have. While theoretical psychologists think it is from something traumatic that happened to you in your childhood or your early adulthood. As we are finding more about the hereditary qualities of our mental disorders; perhaps there, maybe, is a genetic component behind developing a particular phobia.

The majority of us believe genetics is something that puts you at greater risk of developing the disorders, but the genetic component is not the determinant of whether a person will or will not develop these disorders. Perhaps, the genes we inherit provide us more significant stability against developing the disorders. There are clear biological and chemical changes that occur in the brain during certain disorders. If you get embarrassed during public speaking, then people think that you are a low-confident person. In reality, there are changes in your brain that cause your tongue to stumble because you are a person having glossophobia.

So in a lot of human disorders, there are biochemical changes that happen to make the symptoms manifest. In 2013, a group of researchers published the results of a survey in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, in which they accumulated relevant data from over four thousand different studies to investigate the potential aspects and causes. According to their findings, it was obvious that one significant factor, when it comes to developing phobias, is related to genetics.

The review expresses that genetic contrasts and variations among individuals were responsible for 45% of individual differences in animal-related phobias, and in phobias related to blood and injuries, genetics accounted for 41% of the differences. However, non-genetic effects also accounted for the remaining differences in fears and phobias; in other words, the majority of phobias were found to be the outcome of individual experiences that prompted the phobia to take shape. Such as being bitten by a dog when you were a kid would be a sensible clarification for why you have a phobia of dogs. It means that, while frightening or traumatic cases can induce phobias, if you have a genetic tendency toward phobias, the chance of developing phobias from such events is amplified to begin.

Symptoms of a phobia:

The most typical and disabling sign of a phobia is a panic attack. Traits of a panic attack include:

  • racing heart
  • upset stomach
  • chest tightness or pain
  • shortness of breath
  • a choking sensation
  • trembling or shaking
  • nausea
  • rapid speech
  • inability to speak
  • dry mouth
  • elevated blood pressure
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • excessive sweating

List of phobias:

Achluophobia: Fear of darkness

Acrophobia: Fear of heights

Aerophobia: Fear of flying

Algophobia: Fear of pain

Agoraphobia: Fear of open spaces or crowds

Aichmophobia: Fear of needles or pointed objects

Amaxophobia: Fear of riding in a car

Androphobia: Fear of men

Anginophobia: Fear of angina or choking

Anthophobia: Fear of flowers

Anthropophobia: Fear of people or society

Aphenphosmphobia: Fear of being touched

Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter

Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders

Arithmophobia: Fear of numbers

Astraphobia: Fear of thunder and lightning

Ataxophobia: Fear of disorder or untidiness

Atelophobia: Fear of imperfection

Atychiphobia: Fear of failure

Automatonophobia: Fear of human-like figures

Autophobia: Fear of being alone

Bacteriophobia: Fear of bacteria

Barophobia: Fear of gravity

Bathmophobia: Fear of stairs or steep slopes

Batrachophobia: Fear of amphibians

Belonephobia: Fear of pins and needles

Bibliophobia: Fear of books

Botanophobia: Fear of plants

Cacophobia: Fear of ugliness

Catagelophobia: Fear of being ridiculed

Catoptrophobia: Fear of mirrors

Chionophobia: Fear of snow

Chromophobia: Fear of colours

Chronomentrophobia: Fear of clocks

Chronophobia: Fear of time

Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces

Coulrophobia: Fear of clowns

Cyberphobia: Fear of computers

Cynophobia: Fear of dogs

Dendrophobia: Fear of trees

Dentophobia: Fear of dentists

Domatophobia: Fear of houses

Dystychiphobia: Fear of accidents

Ecophobia: Fear of the home

Elurophobia: Fear of cats

Entomophobia: Fear of insects

Ephebiphobia: Fear of teenagers

Equinophobia: Fear of horses

Gamophobia: Fear of marriage

Genuphobia: Fear of knees

Glossophobia: Fear of speaking in public

Gynophobia: Fear of women

Haphephobia: Fear of touch

Heliophobia: Fear of the sun

Hemophobia: Fear of blood

Herpetophobia: Fear of reptiles

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia: Fear of long words

Hydrophobia: Fear of water

Hypochondria: Fear of illness

Iatrophobia: Fear of doctors

Insectophobia: Fear of insects

Koinoniphobia: Fear of rooms

Koumpounophobia: Fear of buttons

Leukophobia: Fear of the colour white

Lilapsophobia: Fear of tornadoes and hurricanes

Lockiophobia: Fear of childbirth

Mageirocophobia: Fear of cooking

Megalophobia: Fear of large things

Melanophobia: Fear of the colour black

Microphobia: Fear of small things

Mysophobia: Fear of dirt and germs

Necrophobia: Fear of death or dead things

Noctiphobia: Fear of the night

Nosocomephobia: Fear of hospitals

Nyctophobia: Fear of the dark

Obesophobia: Fear of gaining weight

Octophobia: Fear of the figure 8

Ombrophobia: Fear of rain

Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes

Ornithophobia: Fear of birds

Papyrophobia: Fear of paper

Pathophobia: Fear of disease

Pedophobia: Fear of children

Philematophobia: Fear of kissing

Philophobia: Fear of love

Phobophobia: Fear of phobias

Podophobia: Fear of feet

Porphyrophobia: Fear of the color purple

Pteridophobia: Fear of ferns

Pteromerhanophobia: Fear of flying

Pyrophobia: Fear of fire

Samhainophobia: Fear of Halloween

Scolionophobia: Fear of school

Scoptophobia: Fear of being stared at

Selenophobia: Fear of the moon

Sociophobia: Fear of social evaluation

Somniphobia: Fear of sleep

Tachophobia: Fear of speed

Technophobia: Fear of technology

Tonitrophobia: Fear of thunder

Trypanophobia: Fear of needles/injections

Trypophobia: Fear of holes

Venustraphobia: Fear of beautiful women

Verminophobia: Fear of germs

Wiccaphobia: Fear of witches and witchcraft

Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners

Zoophobia: Fear of animals

How a phobia can be treated?

Fortunately, phobias are fairly simple to treat since people with phobias are almost always aware of the fact that they have a treatment for the issue. Treatment for phobias can involve therapeutic techniques, medications, or a combination of both. Moreover, phobias are such a customized experience that there is no magical treatment used on patients universally. Instead, treatments are tailored for each individual to assist every patient in confronting their phobia in a way that is specifically useful to them. For simple phobias, the easiest solution is avoiding the things that trigger your fear response. The study mentions that for some phobias, a single 2-hour session of immersion therapy might be enough to relieve feelings of fear by allowing people to confront the thing that triggers their phobia in a safe and controlled setting.

For complex or more serious phobias with triggers that are more abstract and harder to avoid, an important first step towards treatment and control might instead be to seek out a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Most of us believe that the treatments for phobias are best done in a psychological psychotherapy setting. They are maybe behavioral therapy or exposure and response prevention. When people are exposed to the thing they fear, and prevented from withdrawing from it; and teach people behaviorally how to cope, there are specific medications that work for certain types of phobias. People with phobias of test taking or speaking are often helped by giving them chances of public speaking and putting them in situations in which they have to bear pressure.

If you have a phobia, you must seek treatment. Conquering your phobias can be difficult, but there is always hope.

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