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Stages of Phobia: Facing Phobia Head-on


As human beings, we frequently develop our own set of fears for specific reasons that we try to avoid. These emotions trigger our fight-or-flight reaction as a form of protection (Smith et al., 2022). This demonstrates how rapidly our bodies and minds respond to threats by defending ourselves. Phobias are just as prevalent as these "natural" fearful experiences. In order to better understand and empathize with others on a deeper level, it is essential to distinguish between the two. Face phobias head-on. Here are some informational measures to assist you in comprehending phobias better.


Stage 1: Defining What Phobia is


The term ‘phobia’ is often used to refer to a fear of one particular trigger (Brazier, 2020). According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), an extreme and illogical dread of a particular thing or circumstance is referred to as a specific phobia. A phobia is a severe, uncontrollable fear that makes a person avoid situations or feel unbearably uncomfortable (Fritscher, 2021). While some phobias are complicated and linked to a variety of conditions or scenarios, others are fixated on a particular fearful object.


Stage 2: Differentiating Fears from Phobia


Fear is a natural emotion in dangerous circumstances, and it can even be beneficial (Smith et al., 2022). We frequently feel fear in situations that would typically set off our fight-or-flight response, as was previously mentioned. This is differentiated from phobias in that the threat in phobias is either nonexistent or greatly exaggerated (Smith et al., 2022).


The following is adapted from PsychCentral (2021) in order to clarify the distinction between fear and phobia.

  • Fears are:

  • an emotional response to a real or perceived threat

  • experienced by everyone at some point

  • part of how we protect ourselves

  • both emotional and physical

  • Unlike fear, a phobia is indicated by:

  • intense and excessive anxiety about a feared object or situation

  • feeling as if fear of the object or situation is holding you back

  • avoiding the feared object or situation


Stage 3: Indicating the Causes of Phobia


The emergence of particular phobias might be influenced by a variety of different variables including negative experiences, genetics, and environment, as well as brain function (Specific phobias, 2016).

  • Negative Experiences: Numerous phobias arise as a result of a traumatic event or panic attack connected to a particular thing or circumstance.

  • Genetics and Environment: Your particular phobia and your parents' phobias or anxieties may be related; this may be a result of heredity or acquired behavior.

  • Brain Function: The emergence of particular phobias may also be influenced by modifications in brain functions.


Stage 4: Knowing the Common Symptoms of Phobia


According to Medical News Today (2020), the majority of what a person with a phobia would experience is described below.

  • A feeling of overwhelming anxiety when the source of fear is encountered

  • A belief that it is imperative to avoid the source of such fear at all costs

  • Being unable to perform as intended when exposed to the trigger

  • A combination of the incapacity to regulate the feelings and the recognition that the fear is irrational, unreasonable, and exaggerated


The following are other bodily implications of experiencing panic and severe anxiety as a result of exposure to the phobia-inducing stimulus:

  • Sweating

  • Abnormal breathing

  • Accelerated heartbeat

  • Trembling

  • Hot flashes or chills

  • A choking sensation

  • Chest pains or tightness

  • Butterflies in the stomach

  • Pins and needles

  • Dry mouth

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

Stage 5: Knowing the Common Types of Phobia


The list below is taken from Medical News Today (2020) in order to provide you with some knowledge about the most prevalent phobias.

  • Social Phobia: Intense fear of a thing or circumstance that is usually not dangerous, such as heights, flying, dogs, enclosed spaces, or tunnels (Phobias, 2021)

  • Agoraphobia: Fear of experiencing a panic attack in a setting from which it may be difficult or embarrassing to escape (Phobias, 2021)

  • Claustrophobia: Fear of being in constricted, confined spaces

  • Aerophobia: Fear of flying

  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders

  • Driving phobia: Fear of driving a car

  • Zoophobia: Fear of animals

  • Aquaphobia: Fear of water

  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights

  • Blood, injury, and injection (BII) phobia: Fear of injuries involving bloodTrusted Source

  • Escalaphobia: Fear of escalators

  • Tunnel phobia: Fear of tunnels


Stage 6: Diagnosing Phobia


According to Millard (2022), the DSM-5 specifies the following criteria when diagnosing a phobia.

  • Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation.

  • The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.

  • The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the sociocultural context.

  • The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.

  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.

  • The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, including fear, anxiety, and avoidance of situations associated with panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating symptoms; objects or situations related to obsessions; reminders of traumatic events; separation from home or attachment figures; or social situations.


Stage 7: Treating Phobia


There are several effective approaches you can use to treat phobias, including self-help and therapy. What's best for you will be determined by factors like how severe your phobia is, if you have access to professional counseling, and how much assistance you require (Smith et al., 2022).


Self-help is always worthwhile to try since "the more you do for yourself, the more in control you'll feel" (Smith et al., 2022). You may, however, wish to seek professional assistance if your phobia becomes too severe that it causes panic episodes or uncontrollable anxiety.


The following are some self-help recommendations from HelpGuide.org (2022):

  • Make a List: List the frightening circumstances associated with your phobia.

  • Build Your Fear Ladder: Sort the items on your list in order of scariness, starting with the least frightening. This would prompt you to consider your end goal and outline the measures you must take to get there.

  • Work Your Way Up the Ladder: Start with the first step and continue only after you feel more at ease performing it. If at all possible, remain there until your anxiousness subsides. You will become more accustomed to the situation and have less anxiety when you encounter it once more the longer you expose yourself to it. Once you've done that, you can go to the following step.

  • Practice: Your development will be more progressive the more often you practice. However, take your time. Follow a pace that won't leave you feeling overwhelmed. And keep in mind that while confronting your concerns may make you feel uneasy and worried, these emotions are just fleeting. If you persevere, the anxiety will go away.


According to Verywell Mind (2022), some of the most popular forms of psychotherapy include the following:

  • Exposure Therapy: Exposing yourself to the dreaded object or event gradually and repeatedly. Relaxation techniques are used in tandem with this exposure until the fear response is diminished or eliminated.

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy: Assisting individuals in learning to recognize and then alter the automatic negative thoughts that fuel phobic responses.


It would be terrifying and difficult to deal with an intense phobia on your own, so we at Fidecita hope you get the best mental health care you deserve. Click here to know more about Fidecita HR Advisory’s Mental Health Care services. You can also message the Fidecita Facebook Page or email us at info@fidecita.com for further inquiries.


References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.


Bettino, K. (2021). Facts About Phobias: What You Need to Know. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/facts-about-phobias#Fear-vs.-phobias:-Understanding-phobias


Brazier, Y. (2020). Everything you need to know about phobias. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249347


Fritscher, L. (2021). DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for a Specific Phobia. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/diagnosing-a-specific-phobia-2671981#toc-dsm-5-criteria-for-a-specific-phobia-diagnosis


Millard, E. (2022). DSM-5 Phobia Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Psycom Pro. https://pro.psycom.net/assessment-diagnosis-adherence/phobia

Phobias. (2021). John Hopkins Medical. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/phobias


Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, R., & Segal, J. (2022). Phobias and Irrational Fears. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/phobias-and-irrational-fears.htm


Specific phobias. (2016). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/symptoms-causes/syc-20355156



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