What is a phobia?

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A phobia is an irrational fear, a kind of anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has a relentless dread of a situation, living creature, place or thing.

Individuals with a phobia go to great lengths to avoid a perceived danger which is much greater in their minds than in real life. If confronted with the source of their phobia, the person will suffer enormous distress, which can interfere with their normal function; it can sometimes lead to total panic.

There are three main categories of phobias:

  • Specific phobias - involve a disproportionate fear about specific situations, living creatures, places, activities, or things. Examples include a fear of:
    Bats (chiroptophobia)
    Dogs (cynophobia)
    Flying (aviophobia)
    Snakes (opidiophobia)
    Birds (ornithophobia)
    Frogs (ranidaphobia)
  • Social phobia - A person with social phobia finds being in social situations difficult and sometimes unbearable. Going to parties, weddings, functions, or exhibitions cause sufferers anxiety; there is fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in public.
  • Agoraphobia - an individual with agoraphobia is frightened of finding himself/herself in situations where there is no escape; they fear being stuck in a desperate situation with no help. Agoraphobia may include a dread of traveling on buses or trains, going into large shops or shopping malls.

What are the signs and symptoms of phobias?

The following symptoms are common across the majority of phobias:

  • Uncontrollable anxiety
  • A feeling that at all costs, the source of that fear must be avoided
  • Panic and intense anxiety, which may include:
    - sweating
    - abnormal breathing
    - accelerated heartbeat
    - hot flushes or chills
    - a sensation of choking
    - chest pains, chest tightness
    - butterflies in the stomach
    - pins and needles
    - dizziness
    - headache
  • A feeling of anxiety when the source of the fear is not there but is simply thought about

What are the causes of phobias?

It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of 30; most of them begin during early childhood, teenage years or early adulthood. They can be caused by a stressful situation or experience, a frightening event, or a parent or household member who has a phobia which the child becomes progressively aware of.

Treatment:

If the phobia does not cause severe problems, most patients find that by simply avoiding the source of their fear is enough to stay in control.
The good news is that with proper treatment, most phobias can be cured. Treatment needs to be tailored to the patient for it to work - no single treatment works for everybody.
The doctor, psychiatrist and/or psychologist may recommend behavior therapy, medications or a combination of both. Therapy is aimed at reducing the symptoms of fear and anxiety, and to help patients manage their reactions to the source of their fear.

Here are some weird and wonderful phobias:

  • Arachnophobia - fear of spiders
  • Erythrophobia - fear of blushing
  • Zoophobia - fear of animals
  • Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing.
  • Achluophobia- Fear of darkness.
  • Acrophobia- Fear of heights.
  • Anuptaphobia- Fear of staying single.
  • Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
  • Aurophobia- Fear of gold
  • Caligynephobia- Fear of beautiful women
  • Catoptrophobia- Fear of mirrors.
  • Chrometophobia - Fear of money.
  • Chromophobia - Fear of colors.
  • Coulrophobia- Fear of clowns.
  • Epistemophobia- Fear of knowledge.
  • Geliophobia- Fear of laughter.
  • Laliophobia - Fear of speaking.
  • Novercaphobia- Fear of your step-mother.
  • Ommetaphobia - Fear of eyes.
  • Oneirophobia- Fear of dreams.
  • Pediophobia- Fear of dolls.
  • Peladophobia- Fear of bald people
  • Pogonophobia- Fear of beards.
  • Pteronophobia- Fear of being tickled by feathers
  • Sciophobia - Fear of shadows.
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