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Common types of phobias, fears

  • Continued from last week

There are four general types of phobias and fears:

Animal phobias: Examples include the fear of snakes, spiders, rodents, and dogs.

Natural environment phobias: Examples include fear of heights, storms, water, and of the dark.

Situational phobias (fears triggered by a specific situation): Examples include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), flying, driving, tunnels, and bridges.

Blood-injection-injury phobia: This is the fear of blood, injury, illness, needles, or other medical procedures.

Some phobias don’t fall into one of the four common categories. Such phobias include fear of choking, fear of getting a disease, such as cancer, and fear of clowns.

Social phobia and fear of public speaking

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is fear of social situations where you may be embarrassed or judged. If you have social phobia, then you may be excessively self-conscious and afraid of humiliating yourself in front of others. Your anxiety over how you will look and what others will think may lead you to avoid certain social situations you’d otherwise enjoy.

Fear of public speaking—an extremely common phobia—is a type of social phobia. Other fears associated with social phobia include fear of eating or drinking in public, talking to strangers, taking exams, mingling at a party, and being called on in class.

Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces)

Agoraphobia is another phobia that doesn’t fit neatly into any of the four categories. Traditionally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks.

Afraid of having another panic attack, you become anxious about being in situations where escape would be difficult or embarrassing, or where help wouldn’t be immediately available. For example, you are likely to avoid crowded places such as shopping malls and movie theatres. You may also avoid cars, airplanes, subways, and other forms of travel. In more severe cases, you might only feel safe at home.

Signs and symptoms of phobias

The symptoms of a phobia can range from mild feelings of apprehension and anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. Typically, the closer you are to the thing you’re afraid of, the greater your fear will be. Your fear will also be higher if getting away is difficult.

Physical symptoms of a phobia;

» Difficulty breathing

» Racing or pounding heart

» Chest pain or tightness

» Trembling or shaking

» Feeling dizzy or light-headed

» A churning stomach

» Hot or cold flashes; tingling sensations

» Sweating

Emotional symptoms of a phobia

» Feeling overwhelming anxiety or panic

» Feeling intense need to escape

» Feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself

» Fear of losing control or going crazy

» Feeling like you’re going to die or pass out

» Knowing that you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control fear

Symptoms of blood-injection-injury phobia

The symptoms of blood-injection-injury phobia are slightly different from other phobias. When confronted with the sight of blood or a needle, you experience not only fear, but also disgust.

Like other phobias, you initially feel anxious as your heart speeds up. However, unlike other phobias, this acceleration is followed by a quick drop in blood pressure, which leads to nausea, dizziness, and fainting. Although a fear of fainting is common in all specific phobias, blood-injection-injury phobia is the only phobia where fainting can actually occur.

When to seek help for phobias and fears

Although phobias are common, they don’t always cause considerable distress or significantly disrupt your life. For example, if you have a snake phobia, it may cause no problems in your everyday activities if you live in a city where you are not likely to run into one. On the other hand, if you have a severe phobia of crowded spaces, living in a big city would pose a problem.

If your phobia doesn’t really impact your life that much, it’s probably nothing to be concerned about. But if avoidance of the object, activity, or situation that triggers your phobia interferes with your normal functioning, or keeps you from doing things you would otherwise enjoy, it’s time to seek help.

Consider treatment for your phobia if:

» It causes intense and disabling fear, anxiety, and panic

» You recognize that your fear is excessive and unreasonable

» You avoid certain situations and places because of your phobia

» Your avoidance interferes with your normal routine or causes significant distress

» You’ve had the phobia for at least six months.

To be continued next week