Fear is a normal part of life. But when a fear is persistent, excessive, unreasonable and induces a lot of anxiety and distress, it is called a phobia. Many people suffer from phobias that can affect their daily life. The expert team at Banner Health is here to diagnose, treat and help you manage any phobias you may have.
Phobias are an unrealistic and overwhelming fear of objects or situations that pose little danger but provoke anxiety. Phobias are a very common type of anxiety disorder. Symptoms for phobias can range from mild annoyances to life disrupting. Unlike brief anxiety, phobias can be long-lasting and cause intense physical and physiological responses.
There are several different types of phobias, and it’s not unusual to experience a specific phobia about more than one object or situation.
Childhood phobias typically occur between the ages of 5 and 9, last a short period of time and usually go away on their own. Phobias that last longer tend to develop later in life, usually for people in their 20s, and can last for many years. Later-in-life phobias are less likely to go away on their own and can increase the risk of other psychiatric illnesses, such as depression, anxiety disorders or substance abuse.
Some common types of phobias include:
Also known as simple phobias, these are the most common types of phobias. With this type of phobia, people may fear specific types of people (such as clowns or the dentist), animals (such as spiders or dogs), environments (such as heights, the dark or thunderstorms) or situations (such as flying in a plane or choking). In some cases, specific phobias can be inherited and can run in families.
While it’s normal to feel nervous in some social situations, social phobia causes significant anxiety around everyday situations. Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and can bring up emotions such as fear of being judged by others, self-consciousness and embarrassment.
Social phobia is a chronic mental health condition, but there are several coping skills and medications you can use to help improve your ability to interact with others. People who may have had negative childhood experiences or were shy as children tend to be more likely to develop social phobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being in public spaces because it would be embarrassing or difficult to make a sudden exit. People with agoraphobia may avoid going to crowded spaces, including public transportation, movie theaters or concerts. Some people with agoraphobia may also experience panic symptoms or panic disorder.
Although there are different kinds of phobias, they are likely to produce some, if not all, of the following reactions:
People with anxiety can sometimes develop phobias. In some cases, phobias are simply annoyances, such as taking the stairs because you fear the elevator. However, if your phobia is negatively impacting your daily life at work, school or social gatherings, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Your doctor can diagnose a specific phobia through a clinical interview and diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association.
Most people with phobias can be helped by addressing the phobia right away with the correct therapy, medications or a combination of the two.
Medications can help reduce the anxiety and panic symptoms that are experienced when you’re exposed to or thinking about the object or situation that causes you fear. Medications can be used as an initial treatment or for short-term use in specific situations, such as public speaking or flying. Common medications for phobias include:
Talking to a mental health professional can help you manage your phobia. There are two types of therapy that are most effective at treating phobias:
No matter your phobia, the expert staff at Banner Health is here to help you manage it and get back to living a normal life.