Phobias are intense feelings of fear about a certain object or situation that poses little or no actual danger. Often present from childhood, they are intense automatic fears of triggers such as rats, spiders, heights or, enclosed spaces. They are associated with an intense desire to avoid or escape from the trigger. It affects approximately 10% of the population. The fear and avoidance are strong enough that it significantly interferes with the person’s normal routine, academic or occupational functioning, social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
Most common specific phobias:
- Claustrophobia – fear of closed spaces
- Aquaphobia – fear of water
- Animal phobias can include; snakes, bats, rats. Herpetophobia – fear of reptiles/crawling things(spiders)
- Acrophobia – fear of heights
- Blood – injury phobia
- Illness phobia – fear of contracting and/or succumbing to a specific illness, e.g. heart attack, cancer.
Help with Phobias
Regarding help for phobias, in general they are very treatable.
For many if the fear is not causing severe problems, simply avoiding the source of this fear gives them sufficient control over the problem.
It is thought by many professionals that a phobia is a ‘learned’ response and what is required is to ‘unlearn’ or challenge this belief.
Treatment for more simple phobias can be by way of gradual exposure to the trigger and this can be done with the support of family or friends until the fear is overcome. This process of gradual exposure to the fear is sometimes known as desensitisation and can be very successful in the treatment of phobias.
For more complex cases, some professional help may be required and the assistance of a qualified Counsellor or Psychotherapist can be a valuable resource. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has been found by many to be very helpful in the treatment of phobias. Treatment will challenge irrational thinking or ‘catastrophic’ beliefs and support them towards more adaptive responses to triggers.
If you would like the support and help of a qualified Counsellor or Psychotherapist with a phobia or with any other issue causing emotional distress, see our Find a Therapist page.