Tip 2: Learn To Calm Down Quickly
When youre 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 themselvesand 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 youre anxious, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths , 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 youre feeling calm until youre familiar and comfortable with the exercise.
How Fear Works In The Brain
One of the ways the brain helps keep you alive is by warning you of dangers. When the brain senses danger, an internal alarm system is activated, sending out various signals that trigger feelings of fear or anxiety. These are physical and cognitive reactions triggered in response to whatever it is that your brain perceives as dangerous or scary.
Sometimes, we should be fearfulwithout fear, we would unknowingly put ourselves into life-threatening situations without taking proper precautions. But the difference between having healthy, occasional bouts of fear and having a phobia is that a phobia is by definition irrational: Despite the intense fear you feel, the circumstance or object of your fear poses little or no actual threat to you.3
Think of a phobia as the brains alarm system in overdriveit overestimates the threat of a particular situation, triggering intense anxiety and leading you to avoid that situation in the future. That avoidance actually makes a phobia worse because it solidifies the brains overblown association between the situation and its threat level.
Normal Fears Vs Phobias Or Irrational Fears
It is normal and even helpful to experience fear in dangerous situations. Fear serves a protective purpose, activating the automatic fight-or-flight response. With our bodies and minds alert and ready for action, we are able to respond quickly and protect ourselves. But with phobias the threat is nonexistent or greatly exaggerated. For example, it is only natural to be afraid of a snarling Doberman, but it is irrational to be terrified of a friendly poodle on a leash, as you might be if you have a dog phobia.
|The difference between normal fear and a phobia|
|Feeling anxious when flying through turbulence or taking off during a storm||Not going to your best friends island wedding because youd have to fly there|
|Experiencing butterflies when peering down from the top of a skyscraper or climbing a tall ladder||Turning down a great job because its on the 10th floor of the office building|
|Getting nervous when you see a pit bull or a Rottweiler||Steering clear of the park because you might see a dog|
|Feeling a little queasy when getting a shot or when your blood is being drawn||Avoiding necessary medical treatments or doctors checkups because youre terrified of needles|
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What Happens When You Have A Phobia
When a phobia triggers, it is a very stressful time for the sufferer. They may not understand why, but they are intensely frightened of something and their heart rate increases, hands get sweaty, and they might even have a panic attack.
Most people with phobias hate the idea of the phobic response as much as the response itself. They feel this way because they know that they should not be as frightened of their phobic trigger as they are.
Other Types Of Phobias
Many people dislike certain situations or objects, but to be a true phobia, the fear must interfere with daily life. Here are a few more of the most common ones:
Glossophobia: This is known as performance anxiety, or the fear of speaking in front of an audience. People with this phobia have severe physical symptoms when they even think about being in front of a group of people. <Glossophobia treatments can include either therapy or medication.
Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights. People with this phobia avoid mountains, bridges, or the higher floors of buildings. Symptoms include vertigo, dizziness, sweating, and feeling as if theyll pass out or lose consciousness.
Claustrophobia: This is a fear of enclosed or tight spaces. Severe claustrophobia can be especially disabling if it prevents you from riding in cars or elevators. <Learn more about claustrophobia, from additional symptoms to treatment options.
Aviophobia: This is also known as the fear of flying.
Dentophobia: Dentophobia is a fear of the dentist or dental procedures. This phobia generally develops after an unpleasant experience at a dentists office. It can be harmful if it prevents you from obtaining needed dental care.
Hemophobia: This is a phobia of blood or injury. A person with hemophobia may faint when they come in contact with their own blood or another persons blood.
Arachnophobia: This means fear of spiders.
Cynophobia: This is a fear of dogs.
Ophidiophobia: People with this phobia fear snakes.
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Can It Be Treated
In treatment, both evolutionary and behaviourist accounts draw on the behaviourist perspective of how fears and phobias are learnt.
Systematic desensitisation is a commonly used therapy for various phobias, whether the fear is innate or learnt.
It involves gradual exposure to the feared object or situation in a safe and controlled environment. This is so that when coming into contact with the feared object or situation, people learn that they are not in danger and no longer experience a phobic response.
If this article has raised concerns for you or someone you know, please contact beyondblue for more information about phobias and how to treat them.
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Specific Phobia With Impairment Among Adults
- Of adults with specific phobia in the past year, degree of impairment ranged from mild to serious, as shown in Figure 2. Impairment was determined by scores on the Sheehan Disability Scale.3
- Of adults with specific phobia in the past year, an estimated 21.9% had serious impairment, 30.0% had moderate impairment, and 48.1% had mild impairment.
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How The Brain Works During A Phobia
Some areas of the brain store and recall dangerous or potentially deadly events.
If a person faces a similar event later on in life, those areas of the brain retrieve the stressful memory, sometimes more than once. This causes the body to experience the same reaction.
In a phobia, the areas of the brain that deal with fear and stress keep retrieving the frightening event inappropriately.
Researchers have found that phobias are
Can Birds Eat Snakes
Actually, a whole bunch of different animal species kill snakes, including a ton of birds owls, hawks, falcons, herons, etc. And many, many snake species eat only other snakes. So mostly, birds and other snakes are the most common predators of snakes. But plenty of mammals get in on the action too.
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Tip 3: Challenge Negative Thoughts About Your Phobia
When you have a phobia, you tend to overestimate how bad it will be if youre 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;Ill 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. Ill 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 were going through turbulence. The plane is going to crash!The person next to me coughed. Maybe its swine flu. Im going to get very sick!
Once youve identified your negative thoughts, evaluate them. Use the following example to get started.
Negative thought: The elevator will break down and Ill get trapped and suffocate.
Ask yourself the following 4 questions:
1. Is there any evidence that contradicts my negative thought?
Yes, for example: People are currently using the elevator and it hasnt broken down.
Even if it did break down, Ive never heard of anyone dying from suffocation in an elevator. There are air vents which would stop the air from running out.
Phobias: The Rationale Behind Irrational Fears
Recently, this section featured an article about the tarantula Typhochlaena costae. While the piece was very interesting, this was likely lost on some readers, as it’s difficult to focus on details while distracted by the sound of your own screaming.
Arachnophobia is one of the more well-known phobias and can be very potent. Searching the science section for some lunchtime reading is not the sort of activity that typically includes spiders, so to be suddenly confronted, apropos of nothing, by an image of a humungous tarantula probably caught many unawares. How many tablets/phones/laptops were ruined due to being hurled across the room in a panic?
Most would consider this an overreaction. Granted, there are many dangerous species of spider but the odds of encountering one are, in the UK at least, vanishingly small. And even then, the biggest spider is physically no match for a person; a rolled up newspaper is not considered a lethal weapon among humans. Arachnophobes substantially outnumber people who have been genuinely injured by spiders, and yet the irrational fear of spiders is commonplace.
What scares people often makes little logical sense. As I do stand-up comedy on occasion, I’m regularly told I’m “incredibly brave”, yet all I’m doing is saying words in front of people. The people who tell me I’m brave think nothing of driving, an often fatal practice. But when you do genuinely fear something for no rational reason, then you may have a phobia.
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Treating Phobias With Medication
A few medications may be used to treat different kinds of phobias on their own or in conjunction with CBT. These medications arent considered cures, but they can help reduce or manage anxiety symptoms. Based on the type of phobia you have and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will tell you if medication may be helpful for you and which type may be best. Be sure to ask your doctor questions about why they recommend a certain medication, the benefits of the medication, and what to expect while taking it.16
Medication options that may be used as a part of treating phobias include:
How Can I Tell If I Have A Phobia Or A Different Anxiety Disorder
Many people with an anxiety disorder are afraid of specific places, situations, or things, and often avoid them. However, this does not necessarily mean that they have a specific phobia. The following are some suggestions on how to tell the difference between a specific phobia and other anxiety disorders.
TIP: Remember, a person may have more than one of these disorders at the same time. For example, you may have a specific phobia of choking and also experience a lot of social anxiety when eating in public.
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Examples Of Causes Of Phobias
- Past incidents or traumas. Certain situations might have a lasting effect on how you feel about them. For example, if you experienced a lot of turbulence on a plane at a young age, you might develop a phobia of flying. Or if you were injured by a dog some years ago, you might develop a phobia of dogs.
- Learned responses from early life. Your phobia may develop from factors in your childhood environment. For example you might have parents or guardians who are very worried or anxious. This may affect how you cope with anxiety in later life. You might develop the same specific phobia as a parent or older sibling. If they have a severe reaction to something they fear, this might influence you to feel the same way.
- Reactions and responses to panic or fear. You might have a strong reaction, or a panic attack, in response to a situation or object. You may find yourself feeling embarrassed by this. Especially if people around you react strongly to your response. You could develop even more intense anxiety about the idea of this happening again.
- Experiencing long-term stress. Stress can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. It can reduce your ability to cope in particular situations. This might make you feel more fearful or anxious about being in those situations again. Over a long period, this could develop into a phobia.
- Genetic factors. Research suggests that some people are more vulnerable to developing a phobia than others.
Living with my phobia of bananas
Statistical Methods And Measurement Caveats
National Comorbidity Survey Replication
Diagnostic Assessment and Population:
- The NCS-R is a nationally representative, face-to-face, household survey conducted between February 2001 and April 2003 with a response rate of 70.9%. DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the fully structured World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview , a fully structured lay-administered diagnostic interview that generates both International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, and DSM-IV diagnoses. The DSM-IV criteria were used here. The Sheehan Disability Scale assessed disability in work role performance, household maintenance, social life, and intimate relationships on a 0â10 scale. Participants for the main interview totaled 9,282 English-speaking, non-institutionalized, civilian respondents. The NCS-R was led by Harvard University.
- In 2001-2002, non-response was 29.1% of primary respondents and 19.6% of secondary respondents.
- Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate ; respondent was reluctant- too busy but did not refuse ; circumstantial, such as intellectual developmental disability or overseas work assignment ; and household units that were never contacted .
- For more information, see NIMH NCS-R study page.
National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement
Diagnostic Assessment and Population:
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Seven Diagnostic Criteria For Specific Phobias
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines seven diagnostic criteria for specific phobias:
- The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.
- The phobic object or situation is avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the socio-cultural context.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- The disturbance is not better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder, including fear, anxiety, and avoidance of situations associated with panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating symptoms; objects or situations related to obsessions; reminders of traumatic events; separation from home or attachment figures; or social situations.
What Are Phobias
Fear is a normal and healthy response to threat, and activates our flight-or-fight response when we are in physical danger. However, we also experience this response when faced with perceived threats, such as being in an enclosed space or a big crowd. We call these fears phobias when they get in the way of responsibilities like going to school or work, and cause us to miss out on enjoyable activities.
People can be aware that they are responding to a perceived threat and not an actual one, but may still be unable to control the anxiety it causes. Some phobias cause extreme distress and can be associated with panic attacks.
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What Is A Phobia
A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.
Unlike the brief anxiety most people feel when they give a speech or take a test, a phobia is long-lasting, causes intense physical and psychological reactions, and can affect your ability to function normally at work or in social settings.
Several types of phobias exist. Some people fear large, open spaces. Others are unable to tolerate certain social situations. And still, others have a specific phobia, such as a fear of snakes, elevators or flying.
Not all phobias need treatment. But if a phobia affects your daily life, several therapies are available that can help you overcome your fearsoften permanently.
Phobias are divided into three main categories: