Generally, phobias are not regular fears, or short bouts of anxiety one feels in a stressful situation. They are a type of anxiety disorder that causes acute distress.
There are 5 broad categories of phobias – Natural Environment, Animals, Medical, Situations, and Other. While the first four are fairly common, like fear of thunderstorms, spiders, blood, and crowds, the last category is the fear of something as mundane as dirt or even technology!
There is even a phobia of phobias! Phobias can be the result of a negative experience or even genetics and learned behavior, and it can even affect one’s ability to function. Here are a few common and some not-so-common phobias. See Faqs.com. For a list of phobias.
Mental health experts suggest that “8% of U.S. adults have some phobia. Women are more likely to experience phobias than men. Typical symptoms of phobias can include nausea, trembling, rapid heartbeat, feelings of unreality, and being preoccupied with the fear object.”
“The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identifies three different categories of phobias: social phobias, agoraphobia, and specific phobias. When people talk about having a phobia of a specific object such as snakes, spiders, or needles, they are referring to a specific phobia.” See Very Well Mind. For an extensive list of phobias
The Mayo Clinic advises that psychotherapy and medication are useful tools in treating phobias. In one of their web pages, they note the following:
Talking with a mental health professional can help you manage your specific phobia. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most effective treatments.
- Exposure therapy focuses on changing your response to the object or situation that you fear. Gradual, repeated exposure to the source of your specific phobia and the related thoughts, feelings, and sensations may help you learn to manage your anxiety. For example, if you’re afraid of elevators, your therapy may progress from simply thinking about getting into an elevator, to looking at pictures of elevators, to going near an elevator, to stepping into an elevator. Next, you may take a one-floor ride, ride several floors, and then ride in a crowded elevator.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves exposure combined with other techniques to learn ways to view and cope with the feared object or situation differently. You learn alternative beliefs about your fears and bodily sensations and the impact they’ve had on your life. CBT emphasizes learning to develop a sense of mastery and confidence with your thoughts and feelings rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.
Generally, psychotherapy using exposure therapy is successful in treating specific phobias. However, sometimes medications can help reduce the anxiety and panic symptoms you experience from thinking about or being exposed to the object or situation you fear.
Medications may be used during initial treatment or for short-term use in specific, infrequently encountered situations, such as flying on an airplane, public speaking, or going through an MRI procedure.
- Beta-blockers. These drugs block the stimulating effects of adrenaline, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, pounding heart, and shaking voice and limbs caused by anxiety.
- Sedatives. Medications called benzodiazepines help you relax by reducing the amount of anxiety you feel. Sedatives are used with caution because they can be addictive and should be avoided if you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence.
For a funny episode dealing with the fear of clowns, google Frasier “Boo.”