What Is A Phobia?
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that describes an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation. Phobias are different from common fears in that the anxiety associated with the object or situation is so strong that it interferes with their daily life and ability to function normally.
Three Types Of Phobias
The American Psychiatric Association identifies three types of phobias:
- Specific phobia: Going to extreme lengths to avoid an activity or object because of fear of danger or harm.
- Examples: Fear of heights, snakes
- Social Phobia: A fear of being humiliated or underperforming in social situations. Also known as social anxiety disorder.
- Examples: Fear of public speaking, public restrooms
- Agoraphobia: Feeling discomfort in situations where escape is difficult or help is not readily available.
- Examples: Fear of leaving the house, small spaces
What Causes Phobias?
- Phobias are commonly passed down by a family member but the main cause of phobias are still unknown. Other frequent causes of phobias include:
- Traumatic experience involving object of fear
- Experiencing a panic attack in specific situation or around an object
- Witnessing someone else being harmed by specific activity or object
- Hearing a tragic story involving a specific activity or object
Diagnosis And Treatment
Although phobias are common, they often do not cause enough distress and impairment to warrant a diagnosis. Those who are diagnosed with a phobia, however, can seek treatment through:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): a form of psychotherapeutic treatment that focuses on exploring the patterns of thinking that lead to inappropriate responses in an individual.
- Exposure Therapy: treats anxiety disorders by exposing patients to their fears in a systematic and secure way
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): teaches people to be aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations from moment to moment without judgment or blame
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): a type of mindfulness psychotherapy that helps guide people into accepting negative experiences and challenges.