We are all scared or experience fear towards certain things. However, phobias are more complex than simple fears as they can dominate the life of an individual by preoccupying them to reorganize their entire lives in order to avoid their fear. The thought of coming into contact with their fear can result in severe anxiety and a panic attack. These attacks include symptoms of shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking or smothering sensations and fear of ‘going crazy’ or losing control amongst others. Therefore, phobias are classified as an anxiety disorder and can lead towards severe depression as well. They can be specific to a particular object or situation or can be more complex. The most common ones include:
- Phobia of specific animals or insects
- Phobia of natural environmental type - storms, heights, water, etc.
- Phobia related to blood or injections
- Situational type phobia – fear related to public transportation, tunnels, bridges, elevators, flying, driving, etc.
- Social phobia – fear of social or performance situations which hold a possibility of embarrassment
- Agoraphobia – fear of places or situations from which escape might be difficult
Counselling and psychotherapy is a highly effective way of treating phobias. It provides the client a safe space to process their phobia and understand its severity and affect on their lives. Various techniques from cognitive behavior therapy are primarily used, which begins firstly by making smaller goals in order to reduce our fear. The therapist supports the client and together they try to learn the cause, triggers and precipitators maintaining the phobia. They also explore thoughts, feelings and behavior related to the phobia. Eventually exposure therapy and relapse prevention therapy is used so that the client can overcome their phobia while managing their fear and understand their own limits. In addition several cognitive strategies and behavioral interventions are used to reduce any anxiety or depression present. Lastly, the client is provided several coping strategies in order to avoid such a problem in the future.