Overcoming a phobia

People with phobias often understand that their fear is irrational and that no real danger is present, but most require help in order in overcoming a phobia. The definition of a phobia is an overwhelming, persistent, unreasonable fear of an object or situation.

There are three main types of phobias:

  • Social phobia (aka social anxiety disorder)
  • Agoraphobia – fear of being alone in a public place
  • Specific (or simple) phobia

Each type of phobia can vary in severity – from mild to a severe, debilitating disorder. The earlier a phobia develops and the longer you wait to treat the phobia, the more difficult it becomes to recover from it. Without treatment, a person is sometimes left trying to avoid their feared situation for the rest of their lives.

Social Phobia (AKA Social Anxiety Disorder)
Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders in the UK. Social phobias are more than mere feelings of shyness. Social phobias involve self-consciousness to the point of paralysation. Social phobias stem from the worry that others will judge negatively and with excessive scrutiny.

Examples of social phobias include:

  • Fear of public speaking
  • Fear of using public restrooms
  • Fear of eating with other people
  • Fear of social contact in general

Social phobia may be so severe as to limit someone’s interpersonal contact completely. If this happens, the phobia can prevent social skills from developing and prevent social connections, friendships or relationships altogether.

Social phobia is often a precursor to agoraphobia, which can be seen as a worsening of the social phobia. Agoraphobia spreads the phobia to many more situations, often with panic attacks. This may occur because of a long delay in seeking a therapist.

Specific (or Simple) Phobia
A specific, or simple, phobia is the fear of a particular object or situation. Most people are familiar with this type of phobia. For example, many people fear spiders; if a person’s fear is irrationally exaggerated enough, this might classify as a specific phobia. People with specific phobias actively seek to avoid the feared object or situation often to the detriment of everyday life.

There are five types of specific phobias, they include:

  • Animal – common examples include fear of dogs, snakes or spiders
  • Natural environment – examples include fear of height, water or thunderstorms
  • Blood injections / injury – common examples are the fear of pain or being beaten
  • Situational – such as fear of flying or elevator
  • Other – phobias which do not specifically fit into another subtype

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