Phobias are one of the most common and often unrecognized psychiatric illnesses among men and women. They affect men, women, and children of all ages. The National Institute of Mental Health has reported that 5-12% of Americans have phobias. Phobias are the most common psychological disorder among women of all ages and are the second most common among men older than 25. Phobias can interfere with your ability to function, work, socialize, and go about your daily routine. They can limit you in the enjoyment of activities and hinder your ability to succeed in some situations.
Phobias are an irrational fear that includes both physical and emotional reactions to feared objects or situations. A phobia can be something as common as:
- specific animals (e.g., spiders, lizards, birds)
- venturing from home
- public speaking
- social situations.
People who suffer from phobias often experience extreme disability that causes crippling anxiety and fear that often results in Panic Attacks. Panic Attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks. Some symptoms include:
- sudden rapid heartbeat
- difficulty swallowing
- choking feelings
- chest pain
- feelings of unreality
- chills/hot flushes.
Symptoms of phobias also include: (1) Feelings of panic, dread, horror or terror of a situation or object (2) Recognizing that the fear is irrational and goes beyond normal boundaries (3) Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable (4) Rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation (5) Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation. The GOOD news is that the vast majority of those with phobias can completely overcome their fears and be symptom free for years if not for life. In Behavior Therapy one learns to gradually control the physical reactions of fear by confronting the feared object or situation in a carefully planned way. This includes a gradual process of first imagining the feared object or situation, using pictures of the objects or situation, and finally working their way up to actually experiencing the situation or becoming in contact with the feared object. This is a process that enables the individual to confront, rather than avoid their fears, and eventually becoming accustomed to it and lose the terror, horror, panic, and dread associated with the situation or object.