Phobia

When fears prevent you from living your best life

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:
  • Sweating
  • 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

Overcoming fearful thoughts

Phobias tend to be specific fears that are directed at certain objects or situations; those that greatly influence the way you live your life can widen out to restrict you in everyday life. For instance; if you have a fear of spiders you may avoid areas where you believe there to be a higher chance of encountering a spider like an old garden shed full of cobwebs. If you then develop a dread of all areas you may encounter a spider, you may unnecessarily avoid going out altogether and spend a lot of time at home cleaning and dusting. When this happens it can be a response to stress or low mood.

Some phobias have more far reaching effects than others, nonetheless they all can bring about situations that leave you feeling terrified. Often the stimulus that starts your feelings of anxiety and panic are negative, fearful thoughts. Thoughts that tend to exaggerate the potential threat to large proportions and your feelings escalate accordingly. We will support you to learn techniques to significantly reduce the negative, fearful thoughts.

Individual therapy

Our therapists are skilled and experienced in working with people who have a generalised or specific anxiety such as a phobia. Individual therapy may work with you to understand the source of your phobia and help you develop strategies to reduce them and in some cases eliminate them altogether. Gradual supported exposure with a cognitive behavioural approach can be an effective way of learning to manage your fears. Where the source of the phobia or cause of its escalation is related to your health and wellbeing, individual psychotherapy can help.

Group therapy

For some people our group programmes for anxiety and mood disorders can be of immense benefit , helping you break the cycle of fear and supporting you to address the wider issues which have led to your phobia intensifying. Our group programmes are designed to provide an extensive range of approaches which include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural and advanced relaxation techniques.

Medication

For some people medication can be useful as an adjunct treatment to therapy and many people have found medication valuable short term. Our consultant psychiatrist will review medication and prescribe treatment following a full assessment of your needs.

Meet the team

Our team of experts consists of consultant psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, therapists, and specialist nurses who work together as a multidisciplinary team for the benefit of every patient in the treatment of all types of phobias.

Our specialised clinic

Discover here our specialised clinic in the treatment of phobias. Let our experienced team advise you now.