Anxiety disorders: What is a phobia?

      If you read my last blog post (What is anxiety and how it can be treated?), you already know that anxiety is a really common disorder that affects millions of people. There are several types of anxiety disorders: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. 
Today I want to share with you something more about the phobias and fears. But first, we need to define what phobia actually means.

A phobia is irrational and strong fear of a thing or event. People who have phobia realize that their fear is unreasonable, but still can’t control their feelings. A phobia starts when they begin to organize their lives around avoiding the object of their fear. Sometimes, even thinking of the feared situation makes them anxious and nervous. Their fears control their lives and they are not able to lead a normal life.

Maybe you are one of these people that struggle with some kind of phobia. You should know that there is a solution for your problem. The first step that you need to do to overcome your phobia is to find out what your phobia actually means. You should know that phobias are common. Having a phobia doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It’s really important for you to know that phobias are highly treatable. You can overcome your fears, no matter how out of control it feels.

But first, do you know what is the difference between normal fear and phobias?

Sometimes it is normal and even helpful to experience fear. The fear prepares our body for action. In that moment we are able to respond very quickly and protect ourselves from the dangerous situation. But with phobias, the threat is exaggerated or nonexistent. For example, it’s normal to feel anxious when you are flying through turbulence, but it’s not a normal situation when you decide not to visit your best friend, because you would have to fly there.

There are 4 general types of phobias and fears:

· Animal phobias – fear of snakes, fear of spiders and fear of dogs.

· Natural environment phobias– fear of storms, fear of water or fear of dark.

· Situational phobias – fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of tunnels and fear of bridges.

· Blood- injection-injury phobia- the fear of blood, fear of injury or fear of needles or other medical procedures.

Some phobias don’t fall into one of the four common categories, for example, fear of getting a disease or fear of clowns.

Two really common phobias are social phobia and agoraphobia.

The social phobia is social anxiety disorder. People who struggle with this phobia become very anxious about what people might think of them, or how they might judge them. They have a fear of meeting people, or performing in front of other people (public speaking or eating or drinking in public), especially strangers. Their anxiety over how they will look and what others might think, may lead them to avoid certain social situations.

The agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) is another very common phobia. People who struggle from this phobia have fear of public places and open spaces. They may have a fear of: entering shops, traveling in trains, buses or planes, being on a bridge or in a lift, being in a cinema, restaurant, etc where there is no easy exit. They have a fear of being in a place where help will not be available or maybe it will be difficult to escape to a safe place. Many people with agoraphobia stay inside their homes for most or all of time.

The symptoms of these phobias can be:

· Physical signs: difficulty breathing, chest pain, shaking, feeling dizzy, hot or cold flashes and sweating.

· Emotional signs: feeling of overwhelming anxiety or panic, feeling an intense need to escape, fear of losing control or going crazy, feeling powerless to control your fear, feeling like you are going to die or pass out.

So, if you have a phobia of something and that doesn’t really impact your life that much, you probably don’t have to be concerned about that. But if you avoid some object, activity or situation that triggers your phobia, maybe it’s time for you to seek help. Please visit your doctor or therapist and ask them to help you. Don’t live in fear. Remember that everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of your fear. Don’t be afraid to face your fears. Take a step – transform your fears into action.

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