Phobias are irrational fears that may or may not have any grounding in reality. Phobias cause anxiety and fear that is intense enough to interfere with functioning. A fear stimulus does not necessarily need to be dangerous in order to elicit a phobia-like anxiety. Anxiety is experienced in the body with physiological changes, as well as psychologically.
- Panic attacks
- Elevated heartrate
- Avoidance of the fear inducing stimulus
- Feeling out of control
- Needing to escape
- Feeling powerless
- Agoraphobia: fear of public spaces
- Social Phobia: fear of social situations
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Claustrophobia: fear of confined spaces
- Altophobia: fear of heights
There is little certainty about the causes of phobias. Many phobias could be linked to traumatic experiences in childhood relating to the phobia stimulus. Parents can also pass on or instill phobias in their children. When a parent expresses fear about a particular stimulus, children may see and mirror this fear. The phobia can then be internalized by the child.
Exposure therapy is the most common treatment for specific phobias. A therapist will begin by exposing a client to the thing they are afraid of in small and gradually increasing amounts. Eventually the client will habituate to the stimulus and no longer experience a spike in anxiety when presented with the stimulus. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may be used to assist in this process in extreme cases.
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