Phobias are characterised by feelings of fear or anxiety triggered by particular situations or objects. These situations do not cause anxiety to everyone, although it is little help to sufferers in realising that others do not regard the situation as being dangerous or threatening.
Getting lives back on track-
Reactions to phobias will often lead to avoidance of the feared situation. These responses can be quite severe and range from a person being initially conscious of their phobia, to it becoming second nature – without them necessarily realising the extent to which it has changed their life. The feared situation may not be avoided entirely, but will trigger anticipatory anxiety, even before the situation is encountered and a sense of enduring it with discomfort.
What are the symptoms associated with phobias?-
There are a number of different types of phobias with varying symptoms, these include:
- Specific phobias
- Social phobias
Specific phobias are restricted to very particular and clearly identified situations. These can include, proximity to particular animals, heights, visiting the dentist, needles or the sight of blood. Although the situation is discrete, contact with such a scenario can evoke significant anxiety or even panic attacks, which can be so unpleasant that a fear of the situation occurring can last for a lifetime if it remains untreated.
Social phobias often start in early adulthood. They characteristically involve thoughts of being looked at negatively by others or fear of embarrassment in public. It can be very common to have anxiety before public speaking, which is often present to a mild degree in everyone. However, it can become increasingly more severe and leading to avoidance, become a more significant problem and a type of phobia. Sufferers often find it difficult to relate to others and find it hard to make friendships. They tend to constantly replay conversations with others, and wonder after an event how they came across and what people thought of them. This can leave them struggling socially outside immediate family, with these difficulties impairing the formation of friendships and relationships, even limiting career development.
Agoraphobia is far greater than a fear of open spaces, which it is often acknowledged as. This encompasses a variety of different, usually very busy situations, complicated by difficulty in escaping from the situation.
Some people are easily triggered by queuing situations such as leaving a supermarket, which has the added complication of being a very public scenario. Symptoms can therefore overlap and can include fear of leaving home, entering shops, crowds and public places, or travelling on buses and planes. In severe instances, individuals can avoid leaving their house and become very isolated. Agoraphobia can often be complicated by the fear of something negative happening in public and with its strong link to panic attacks, can often include the fear of fainting or collapsing in public and being helpless and embarrassed.
How the Priory can help to treat phobias-
Most treatment for phobic anxiety disorders involves a variation on what is termed ‘graded exposure’. This involves trying to tackle the fear of a situation by acknowledging how it could be approached, even at first using imagination, before trying to tackle the feared situation in reality.
This involves carefully and systematically learning to face the fear in a gradual and controlled way, thereby reducing the avoidance, which is known to worsen the problem. These techniques may at first even involve exposure to the feared situation in imagination rather than in real life situations. Before that can be undertaken, it is often necessary to be able to learn techniques for managing symptoms of anxiety and improving coping techniques before the procedure begins.
The Priory can offer specific treatments, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based treatments in order to help sufferers overcome phobic situations. It is also very important to properly assess a phobia as they could form part of a bigger situation involving issues with anxiety and depression - or could be made worse by these co-existing conditions.