Do you have a deep rooted fear that prevents you from doing the things you want to or should do, like going on holiday abroad or seeking help for health appointments? You may have a phobia that makes it hard for you to live the life you want to live instead of having to avoid certain activities.
Phobias are an extreme fear triggered by a particular situation, object, or animal. They are beyond a general fear, instead creating an exaggerated sense of danger from the trigger. A phobia can impact your day to day life due to the level of avoidance of the feared stimulus.
At Schoen Clinic, we specialise in working with people with a range of anxiety and mood disorders, including all types of phobias.
What types of phobias are there?
A phobia could be developed on a wide variety of objects or situations. They can be organised into two categories:
- Simple or specific phobias: they focus around a specific object, animal, or activity (e.g. spiders or going to the dentist). Examples of simple phobias: Environmental phobias (e.g. heights or germs) Situational phobias (e.g. flying or the dentist) Animal phobias (e.g. spiders or snakes) Bodily phobias (e.g. blood or injections) Sexual phobias (e.g. about performance or sexually transmitted infections)
- Complex phobias: they are more conceptual and tend to be more disabling (e.g. social phobia). Common examples of complex phobias are: Agoraphobia, the fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help would not be available (e.g. crowded places, public transport or being alone) *Social phobia: see Social Anxiety Disorder.
Physical symptoms of phobia: how to identify this disorder?
Phobias result in you trying to avoid contact with the phobic stimulus wherever possible. In severe cases this can become debilitating and prevent you from carrying out everyday activities. Exposure to the phobia can result in very high anxiety, and or a panic attack. Specific symptoms of phobia can vary between people:
- Trembling or shaking
- Numbness or pins and needles
- Hot flushes or chills
- Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
- A choking sensation
- Rapid heartrate, or palpitations
- Pain or tightness in the chest
- A sensation of butterflies in the stomach
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
- Headaches, dizziness and feeling faint
- Dry mouth
- A need to go to the toilet
- Ringing in your ears
Psychological symptoms of phobia
- Confusion or disorientation
- Feeling out of touch with reality or detached from your body
- Fear of losing control or fainting
- Feelings of dread
- Fear of dying
- High sense of panic
- Incomprehensible fear
- High distress
Causes of phobias: factors that trigger the fear
A phobia can develop at any age from childhood to early adulthood. Often, they are related to a frightening or stressful event, however there is not always a clear reason they occur. Complex phobias generally develop during adulthood and are usually linked to an extended fear about a particular situation or circumstance.
There is not one set cause for phobias, but there are several factors that are associated with the increased likelihood of the development of phobias:
- Experience of an early negative experience, incident or trauma related to the phobic stimuli
- Learning from a family member
- Genetic predisposition, shown in family history of anxiety
- Evolutionary reason for fear may increase likelihood