Phobias: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Phobias are feelings of excessive fear of objects, situations, living things and places. People who are phobic will experience extreme pressure when faced with what they fear, and this condition can make him panic. A person who has a phobia is someone who actually understands that he has excessive fear and is often unreasonable.

Efforts to fight fear will only bring more anxiety. Phobias are diseases that often begin in childhood. The fear experienced is sometimes irrational and paralyzes one’s abilities. This fear also results in a strong desire to avoid the object or situation that is feared.

Phobia type

In general, phobias are divided into the following three types:

1. Specific phobias

Is the most common form of phobia, and sufferers of this type of phobia may be afraid of the following:

  • Certain animals (such as dogs, cats, spiders, snakes)
  • People (like clowns, dentists, doctors)
  • Environment (such as dark places, storms, high places)
  • Situations (such as flying on a plane, riding a train, being in limited space).

These conditions are at least partly genetic (inherited) from the family.

2. Social phobia or social anxiety

People who experience social anxiety disorder fear social situations where they might be insulted, humiliated or judged by others. People with this type of phobia can even refuse to eat in public restaurants. They avoid public speaking, parties, and public toilets. These situations and places frightened them, reddish faces, palpitations, sweating, trembling, stuttering or fainting.

3. Agoraphobia

This type of phobia is similar to social phobia, but has differences. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a public place where it will be difficult or embarrassed to come out suddenly. A person with agoraphobia can avoid watching movies or concerts, or traveling by public transportation such as buses or trains.

Many people who experience agoraphobia also have symptoms of panic or panic disorder. This condition causes intense fear plus uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as trembling, palpitations and sweating.

Causes of phobias

Can not be explained with certainty what causes phobias. Phobias are diseases that often cannot be explained rationally and not in accordance with reality. For example, someone who is a phobia of the social environment, it will not make him dare to come to a crowded place. Someone can get me into one of these kinds of phobias

In fact, not all crowded situations are dangerous and not everyone gives a negative assessment on him. However, a person with social phobia will assume that being in a crowd is dangerous and causes discomfort.

Apart from the types of phobias above, there are several factors that are strongly suspected to trigger phobia, including:

1. Specific phobias

This phobia usually develops before the age of 4 to 8 years. In some cases, this phobia may originate from a traumatic initial experience. One example of these types of phobias is claustrophobia, which develops over time after a younger child has an unpleasant experience in confined spaces.

A phobia that starts during childhood can also be caused by a family member who has a phobia. A child whose mother has arachnophobia (fear of spiders), for example, is far more likely to develop the same phobia.

A child can indirectly ‘learn’ what happens from every family member who avoids, yells or walks away, because spiders become something that endangers him.

2. Complex phobias

More research is needed to ascertain why a person develops agoraphobia and social anxiety. Researchers today believe that complex phobias are caused by a combination of life experiences, chemicals in the brain, and genetics.

In addition to fear of certain objects, someone who has a complex phobia of daily activities can also be disturbed. Examples of complex phobias are social phobias and agoraphobia. Someone with agoraphobia has a combination of several types of phobias that are interrelated, such as living alone at home or in a narrow and closed place.

In the end, both of these phobias have effects that can harm mental health and everyday life.

Some specific phobias can also be caused by changes in brain function.

Risk factors for phobias

People with a genetic predisposition to anxiety are at high risk for phobias. Here are some factors that increase the risk of certain phobias:

  • Age
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Gender

For example, women are more likely to have animal phobias. Children or people with low socioeconomic status are more likely to experience social phobia. While men, the majority have phobias of dentists and doctors. Even someone can experience one of the various types of phobias due to experiencing severe trauma.

Brain Work During Phobias

Some areas of the brain store and remember things that once harmed you. When a person encounters a similar event later in life, this area of ​​the brain picks up stressful memory, sometimes more than once. This causes the body to experience the same reaction.

In phobias, areas of the brain that handle fear and stress continue to pick up scary events inappropriately. Researchers have found that phobias are often associated with the amygdala, which is located behind the pituitary gland in the brain. Amygdala can trigger the release of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. This condition puts the body and mind in a very alert and stressful state.

Phobia Symptoms

The most common and disabling phobia symptom is panic attacks. Panic attack features include:

  • Heart beating or beating fast
  • Hard to breathe
  • Talk fast or unable to talk
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Shaky
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Choking sensation
  • Dizzy
  • Sweating a lot

Phobia diagnosis

Most people who have phobias are fully aware of the problem. Phobias are usually not diagnosed like other diseases. Sufferers sometimes choose to let live with phobias, and are very careful to avoid the feared object or situation.

But if you have a phobia, constantly trying to avoid what is feared will worsen the condition. So, seek doctor’s help if you have a phobia. Your doctor may refer you to specialists, such as therapists and psychologists.

Treatment of phobias

Usually all kinds of phobias can be treated and cured. How to eliminate mild phobias can be treated through exposure to objects, places, animals, or situations that cause fear and anxiety.

This treatment is called desensitization or self-exposure therapy. How to get rid of this phobia can be through the help of a professional or help from family or friends.

While how to treat complex phobias usually takes longer and involves talking therapy, such as:

  • Counseling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Medication is not usually given to treat phobias. However, sometimes medications are prescribed to help people overcome the effects of anxiety.

The following medicines can be used:

  • Antidepressants
  • Sedative
  • Beta blocker

Can phobias be prevented?

Although many of the specific phobias cannot be prevented, early help and treatment after a traumatic experience, such as animal attacks, can prevent people with phobias from experiencing severe anxiety disorders.


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