Phobic Disorder: (diagnosis, types & treatments)

This article overview the psychopathological aspects of phobic disorders, its diagnostic aspects, types of phobic disorders and their treatments. 

What Is a Phobia?

A phobia is an anxiety disorder that usually causes an individual to develop an extreme and irrational fear about a situation, place, creature, or object.

When people have a phobia, their lives are usually shaped to avoid what they consider to be dangerous and imagine a great threat about things or creatures that cannot be as much of a threat as the individual assumes or imagines. 

Phobias are extremely common diagnosable disorders usually found from children to old people.

They can range from being phobic to small things such as spiders to large places such as the ocean.

People experience intense stress whenever they are faced with their phobic sources, and it can often prevent them from functioning normally, and many people around the globe often end up having severe panic attacks.

A phobia is much simpler than feeling simple sensations of fear, and they are not limited to fears of specific triggers.

Even when individuals are aware that their phobic for a specific object is irrational, they are unable to control their reactions of fear whenever they experience situations, including their phobic source. 

People usually develop a phobia towards things and not notice it as something major since some phobias are more widely observed, such as arachnophobia, hydrophobia, claustrophobia, etc.

In a survey done in the United States of America in recent years, 19 million people were found to have either one or multiple phobias.

People can develop phobias of any possible thing. 

Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in later life based on an individual’s personal and physical experiences.

Phobia is supposed to be an irrational fear, but when the body is in a dangerous situation, and the brain automatically activated the fight-or-flight adrenaline response, the fear in that situation is perfectly rational and hence cannot be called a phobia.

WHAT ARE THE COMMON TYPES OF PHOBIA?

Names of specific phobias are often termed as nonce words, or words that are coined for a specific occasion only.

These names are more than often formed by using Greek prefixes that represent the fear of an object and add the word phobia as a suffix.

Such as adding the greeting name of spider arachnids and adding phobia to it to make arachnophobia. 

Some very common phobias are:

  • Acrophobia: The individual has a fear of heights and tall places.
  • Achluophobia: The individual has a fear of darkness and dark places.
  • Arachnophobia: The individual has a fear of spiders.
  • Belonephobia: The individual has a fear of needles, mostly of injections.
  • Claustrophobia: The individual has a fear of confined and small places.
  • Entomophobia: The individual has a fear of small insects and bugs.
  • Hemophobia: The individual has a fear of blood and bleeding from their body.
  • Hydrophobia: The individual had a general fear of water and spaces containing water outlets.
  • Mysophobia: The individual has a fear of dirt and germs.
  • Obesophobia: The individual has a fear of gaining weight.
  • Agoraphobia: The individual had a fear of open spaces or crowds.
  • Pyrophobia: The individual had a fear of fire and burning.
  • Zoophobia: The individual has a fear of animals in general.
  • Iatrophobia: The individual has a fear of doctors and physicians. 

ARE THERE ANY UNCOMMON PHOBIAS?

The list of uncommon phobias is greater than common ones as humans can develop very irrational fears towards normal things like rooms and buttons.

People sometimes develop irrational fear towards cooking and colors like black or red.

People even have a fear of long words and public restrooms. Some of the most uncommon specific phobias are

  • Gynophobia: The person has a fear of women
  • Heliophobia: The person has a fear of being touched
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: The person has a Fear of Long Words
  • Androphobia: The person has a fear of men
  • Arithmophobia: The person has a fear of numbers
  • Amaxophobia: The person has a fear of disorder and untidiness
  • Ephebiphobia: The person has a fear of teenagers
  • Genuphobia: The person has a fear of knees
  • Necrophobia: The person has a fear of death and dead things
  • Ombrophobia: The person has a fear of rain
  • Papyrophobia: The person has a fear of paper
  • Pathophobia: The person had a fear of disease.
  • Scolionophobia: The person had a fear of school
  • Somniphobia: The person had a fear of sleep
  • Tachophobia: The person had a fear of speed.
  • Wiccaphobia: The person had a fear of witches and witchcraft.
  • Technophobia: The person had a fear of technology
  • Sociophobia: The person had a fear of Social phobia of evaluation.

WHAT ARE ITS CAUSES?

The main cause of why a person develops different phobias in their life is still unknown, but some specific factors have been evaluated and put together that may have an impact on an individual in a way that causes them to develop an irrational fear of certain things in their lifetimes. 

Much is still unknown about why some special phobias are caused like fear of technology or fear of knees, fear of teenagers, fear of evaluation, fear of stairs, fear of plants, etc., but causes for some common phobias may include:

NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES: 

Many phobias in an individual’s life may develop as an outcome or drawback of having a negative or traumatic experience in their lives or a panic attack related to contributing to the pathophysiology of that person.

Many people develop a fear for the ocean after they almost drown, or people develop claustrophobia or agoraphobia, fear of confined spaces, or also known as the fear of elevators, after being stuck on one of them for a long period of time.

GENETICS AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: 

Researchers may have found a link that indicated that there might be a standing link connected to genetics that shows a connection between your irrational fears and your parents’ irrational fears. 

Your specific phobia may have been inherited by you from your mother or father’s genes, or you could have inherited their anxiety, social phobia, or their fear of spiders and genetics.

This could, however, also be due to learned behavior as kids mimic what they see in their childhood and then go on to implement that same behavior throughout their life.

BRAIN FUNCTION: 

Changes in an individual’s brain function may also play a part in the development of specific or common phobias.

People with low serotonin usually have a fear of crowded places to developing social anxiety as an excuse to stay away from going out as much. 

People that develop social anxiety try to avoid gatherings as much as they can as they don’t ever feel comfortable and always fear in such type of situations for no rational reason.

WHAT ARE ITS SYMPTOMS?

A patient having an irrational fear is considered to have a phobia if it goes on for a long period of time for no apparent reason.

The two main symptoms are panic attacks and anxiety in the presence of the source of fear; people have a fight-or-flight situation with an adrenaline rush in their body, elevating their heartbeat and blood pressure.

A person having a phobia may experience the following main symptoms:

They feel a sensation of uncontrollable anxiety and panic whenever they are exposed or brought within a certain range to their source of fear.

People feel that the source of their fear must be avoided in all situations at all costs, this is better observed with people having social phobias, and it is much easier to get a diagnosis this way.

People, when exposed to their source of fear, are unable to function properly and usually have a panic attack as soon as they are in close proximity with their source of fear.

Patients with irrational fears can acknowledge that the fear they have is unusual and irrational, but they are unable to make the feeling of terror go away

When people experience an intense attack of anxiety and fear, they sweat a lot with abnormal and accelerated heartbeats, trembling, nauseated feeling, headache or dizziness, dry mouth, a choking sensation, and feel like their throats are closing up and chest tightness or pain.

HOW ARE THEY TREATED?

The diagnosis of phobias is through clinical interviews, evaluation, and diagnostic guides given by DSM 5.

Usually, different types of phobias are noticed by people in their daily lives as they go about their day and seek help for them if they think it is necessary.

People who fear driving and have to drive, people who fear heights but live on the top floor, people who fear water but have maximum exposure to it need to get it in check with therapy. 

Doctors ask questions about symptoms and take a medical and psychiatric exam along with social history.

If a person develops specific phobias, it is advised to see a medical professional or getting psychological help, especially If the patient has a family or children. 

Genetics plays a role in the development of irrational fears among people if children repeatedly observe a specific phobia in an adult; they are most likely to develop that phobia within them in the time to come. 

By dealing with their fears, people tend to teach their children resilience. The best way for it to be treated is by exposure therapy.

Sometimes doctors may even recommend medications and other therapies.

The goal of its treatment is to improve the quality of life so that a person is no more bound by their fear. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a multiverse therapeutic approach that involves exposure techniques, combined with other strategies to explore various coping mechanisms to deal with the feared object or situation.

You get to learn alternative beliefs about your fears and bodily sensations and the impact they’ve had on your life.

CBT emphasizes learning to develop a sense of mastery and confidence with your thoughts and feelings rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

WHAT ARE THE MEDICATIONS?

Usually, people seeking psychotherapy and exposure therapy seems to be enough for treating phobias and anxiety brought about by them.

Sometimes doctors prescribe medications that can help in reducing panic symptoms and anxiety attacks.

Some of those medications include beta-blockers that can block the effects of adrenaline like elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and shake. 

Sedatives are also used as medications called benzodiazepines, which help you relax and reduce the amount of anxiety a person feels.

They are caused by caution because they can be addictive, and patients with a history of alcoholism and substance abuse are avoided.

Some helpful resources: 

  • Anxiety and Phobic Disorders: A Pragmatic Approach (Clinical Child psychology Library)
  • Phobic Disorders and Panic in Adults: A Guide to Assessment and Treatment
  • Phobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents (Advances in Psychotherapy: Evidence-Based Practice) (Advances in Psychotherapy – Evidence-Based Practice Book 27)
  • Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
  • Phobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Clinician’s Guide to Effective Psychosocial and Pharmacological Interventions

Conclusion

People confuse normal fears with irrational fears very often.

One important thing to remember that virtually for a patient, anything can be a possible object for which there can be a development of a phobia.

Having phobias may have a serious impact on an individual’s life, therefore, it is important to seek appropriate clinical help and therapeutic intervention. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a phobia a mood disorder?

No, the phobia is a mental disorder in which a person fears from common things, thinking that they pose a threat to him.

Can a phobia be cured?

People may seek therapy for phobia if they have to interact with their source of phobia on a regular basis but phobia cannot be properly cured.

Do phobias get worse with age?

No, phobias are usually observed to the same extent with everyone around the globe whether they are young or old.

Are Phobias a form of mental illness?

Yes, the phobia is a mental illness in which people delude themselves into imagining a threat from things that are not that dangerous.

What is the weirdest phobia?

Nomophobia (fear of not having phone access), Phobiphobia (Fear of having a phobia) and anatidaephobia (fearing that a duck is watching you) are one of the weirdest phobias.

What is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

What we recommend for Phobias

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.

Panic Courses

  • Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Weighted Blankets

  • Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.

REFERENCES 

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