Fears and phobias are both forms of anxiety. They can be quite overwhelming and crippling at their extremes and are usually considered to be irrational. At times, however, they can hold just enough validity that we find them difficult to explain away. A phobia can involve objects, people, or even situations. There is most often, however, an underlying reason, such as trauma.
Most of us are familiar with the “Peanuts” cartoon of Lucy offering psychiatric help and various phobia diagnoses. The list of phobias has expanded since those days. Now, we have modern phobias such as nomophobia, the fear of being unable to rely on your phone. This shows us that, with the changes time and technology bring, fears and phobias follow. For this reason, we have to learn to overcome them. They certainly aren’t going to go away on their own.
Where do fears and phobias come from?
They usually begin as a result of a traumatic or frightening experience, but they can also be learned. In other words, if your mother has a fear of driving (vehophobia), you are more likely to avoid getting your driver’s license until you are 31.
Phobias rarely show up past 30 years of age and are either specific or complex. Complex phobias can coincide with a number of other phobias. For example, the presence of both agoraphobia and claustrophobia. These are more likely to pose problems with an individual’s daily functioning.
Types of Phobias:
Phobias fit into one of three categories recognized by the American Psychiatric Association:
Specific/Simple: An overwhelming fear of a particular trigger (think arachnophobia, the fear of spiders).
Social: Not just being “shy”, but experiencing intense fear or panic in regards to the idea of public humiliation or social gatherings in general (think social anxiety).
Agoraphobia: Fearing situations where one could not easily escape if they were to experience panic. This coincides with an increased risk of panic disorder.
So, how do you overcome fears and phobias? Or do you just accept your them as part of life? It depends upon how comfortable you are continuing to live with it. For example, a specific phobia may be easily avoided. A complex phobia, on the other hand, can be almost impossible to ignore. In these cases, mental health services are often helpful. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix for every phobia. Treatment must be individualized. Therapy places the focus on reducing the fear and anxiety associated with the phobia until it is manageable. You don’t have to allow fears and phobias to take control of your life.