Encountering certain obstacles or situations may leave one frightened, such as being afraid of the dark, fear of heights or animals. Most of us are able to remain calm, rationalize the situation, and find a way around it, but this doesn’t work for everyone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 10 million adults live with some kind of phobia.
What is a phobia?
Phobias, according to the American Psychological Association, are intense fears that result in distress and can be intrusive. Individuals with this anxiety disorder have an irrational fear of things that don’t pose any real threat.
Here are a few examples of common phobias:
- Arachnophobia, which is the fear of spiders
- Acrophobia, this is the fear of heights
- Agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in a situation you can’t escape from
The American Psychiatric Association simplified the symptoms into two points:
- An out-of-proportion reaction, that is inappropriate for the person's age
- The individual’s capability to behave normally is compromised
Unlike anxiety disorders, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there isn’t extensive research that has been completed on phobias, but that hasn’t stopped mental health professionals from finding ways to help patients.
- Therapists help treat phobias by using psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Clients may receive CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), where they can learn how to think, react, and behave to whatever it is that they fear. It is meant to reduce the feeling of overwhelming anxiety.
- Therapists also have good success using exposure therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy to address phobias, often reducing symptoms significantly.
- Medications, on the other hand, aren’t a cure but they help clients deal with some of the symptoms.
- Individuals can also learn stress-management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or other holistic approaches.
While one of these methods may work for some, professionals may provide their patients with a combination of these treatments and remedies. Unfortunately, the cause of anxiety disorder is unknown. It may be due to genetics, the environment, or even developmental factors. Despite not knowing all the facts, therapy can be very helpful and people dealing with phobias should seek help.