What Is The Psychology Behind Phobias?
Awareness Health

What Is The Psychology Behind Phobias?

Kanika is so scared of lizards that she suffered drastically because of it. She is so afraid of them that whenever she sees one, she starts shouting in fear and runs from the place in no time and because of this she has started avoiding going out to a new place or visiting her grandparents in a village. She had this fear since a lizard fell on her neck in 3rd grade. Kunal cannot remember when or why he became so afraid of flying. Even last month he turned down the opportunity to go abroad because it involved plane travel and he is extremely terrified of heights. Both kunal and kanika are too embarrassed to tell anyone about their fears or weaknesses. But, they don’t know they have a treatable problem. Most of the Phobias can be managed and cured.

What is Phobia?

Many people would feel tense and terrified while looking down from a good height and some will surely get shocked after seeing a live snake nearby them. Although, generally people would not necessarily avoid pictures of a snake and may not feel scared while watching a video of someone skydiving but a person with a phobia of snakes or heights would not look at the videos or photos because of the fear. Avoiding a live snake is rational but avoiding the picture of a snake is not, but it is extreme fear known as Phobia. Phobia is an irrational, persistent fear of something, where ‘something’ can be specific objects or situations or may involve social interactions. The fear must interfere negatively with a person’s life to be considered as a true phobia. In Phobia we have a strong emotional reaction when exposed to our fear like severe anxiety and stress which affects us negatively.

What causes Phobia?

Exact cause of Phobia is still unknown but some researchers believed that it may be described by association of the things that can be developed because of having some traumatic or distressing experience with it earlier. Over the time, that fear manifests itself in our thoughts due to which person avoids the object and this continuous avoidance of the feared object or situation keeps the phobia securely in place. Example. A young child who is humiliated by other classmates is more prone to develop a social phobia in adulthood or a young child who had a nasty experience while giving a speech or public presentation may fear people and can develop stage fear in future due to negative experiences and catastrophic thinking in early life. He might assume everyone believes ‘he is a fool’, ‘he can’t do anything’, ‘he doesn’t even know how to deliver a speech’ , such negative thoughts and baseless assumptions are highly responsible for making such fear crystallized into phobia..

What are the types of Phobia? Few are mentioned below:

  • Social Phobia/Social anxiety disorder: Social phobias are characterized by fear and embarrassment in dealing with others. It is Fear of public speaking/ presentation or fear of socializing with a bunch of individuals together. Individuals with this Phobia may freeze or feel nervous while in public and also show symptoms like severe anxiety, intense blushing, fumble while talking to bunch of individuals. These fears typically arise in early childhood, and may crystallize into a phobia in  adolescence.
  • Agoraphobia: It’s the term taken from a Greek name which literally means ”Fear of marketplace” i.e. Fear of open areas. The person typically fears going out in a public place from where escape is difficult. Such phobia is sometimes seen in patients having frequent panic attacks or individuals with seizures as they don’t want to get embarrassed while having an attack or seizures in the outside world. So, they like to remain in their home and avoid engaging in activity or work that requires going out of the house.
  • Specific Phobia: It is fear of specific objects or situations. Some of the common specific phobias are mentioned below:-
  • Xenophobia: Fear of strangers.
  • Necrophobia: Fear of death/dead things.
  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights.
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces (limited or small).
  • Herpetophobia: Fear or aversion to reptiles commonly lizards or snakes.
  • Trypanophobia: Fear of injections.

How to manage your Phobia naturally at home?

  • Mindfulness strategies and relaxation techniques can be really helpful in learning to tolerate stress and anxiety. Yoga can also help to cope with them.
  • Social anxiety can be managed by deep breathing exercise and focusing on your content rather than on the audience. It is really important for you to understand that people will always have different opinions about you but your opinion regarding yourself, your self-image is what really matters the most.
  • Join a group or take help of your family or friends to face your worst fear. This will really help you as your loved one is beside, you can try to counter them and with the passage of time and practice, your fear might diminish. Example, if you fear dogs then you can try to face one with the support of your loved one and over time, keep closing the distance and there will be a happy time when there is least distance between you and a friendly dog.
  • Talk openly about your fears with your loved one as the one who loves us always understands us.

It is always recommended to visit a mental health professional once the situation starts becoming severe i.e. when these fears or phobias start to severely impact your life and daily life functioning. Exposure therapy and behavioural therapies are considered to be the most effective treatment of Phobias.

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