Understanding Phobias

By: Pine Rest Staff

A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity or situation that in reality presents little or no danger. Some of the more common phobias include animals, snakes, spiders and insects; heights, escalators and tunnels; highway driving, trains and flying; and medical procedures, needles or the sight of blood.

While some phobias develop in childhood, others develop unexpectedly, usually in adolescence or early adulthood. Over 19 million adults have a specific phobia, making this the most common type of anxiety disorder.

People with phobias have emotional and physical reactions to the feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia include feelings of panic, dread or terror. Those who have phobias often experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and trembling. They may recognize that their fear goes beyond normal boundaries of reason, but their reactions are automatic and uncontrollable and they feel powerless in controlling or combating it.

While adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing the object or situation or even thinking about it, brings on severe anxiety. The distress can become so great that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.

Children and adolescents who suffer from specific phobias may not realize that their anxiety is excessive or unreasonable and may believe that their fearful responses are justified. They fully believe that the frightening object or event will actually harm them if they do not avoid it. Children will become extremely distressed when confronted with the object or situation, and the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing or clinging.

Agoraphobia

About one in three people with a panic disorder also develop agoraphobia—a fear of public places such as sports arenas or shopping malls, open spaces (parks, beaches), public transportation or other sites where there may be crowds and where immediate escape is not possible or help for a panic attack may not be readily available. They avoid the place or places where they first suffered a panic attack. Or, the panic attack sufferer may halt all activities that seem to trigger the attacks such as driving, riding in elevators or going to the grocery store.

Sometimes this anxiety becomes so intense, sufferers may eventually refuse to leave home.

About one in three people with a panic disorder also develop agoraphobia—a fear of public places such as sports arenas or shopping malls, open spaces (parks, beaches), public transportation or other sites where there may be crowds and where immediate escape is not possible or help for a panic attack may not be readily available. They avoid the place or places where they first suffered a panic attack. Or, the panic attack sufferer may halt all activities that seem to trigger the attacks such as driving, riding in elevators or going to the grocery store.

Sometimes this anxiety becomes so intense, sufferers may eventually refuse to leave home.

We are here for you! Pine Rest provides compassionate, world-class treatment for anxiety at all care levels and for all ages.

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