A phobia is an overwhelming fear of a certain kind of situation or a specific person/people, animal, object, place or emotional state. Phobias may differ from more generalised anxiety because a person with a phobia may feel completely well adjusted in most respects but experiences extreme fear only in specific situations. Phobias are somewhat distinct from OCD because the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours typical of OCD tend not to be present in a phobia. Nevertheless, there is no clear distinction between anxiety, OCD and phobias, and it may be that a person’s symptoms vary from day to day and from situation to situation.
Further information about peer support groups for phobias can be found at the website of the charity Triumph Over Phobia UK here: http://www.topuk.org/.
Phobias typically manifest as strong anxiety coupled with a variety of physical reactions, which may include but not be limited to:
- Hot and/or cold flushes
- Feeling faint
- Racing heart rate
- Shaking or trembling
- Sensation of being trapped
- Urge to run away
Phobias fall into two categories, simple phobias and complex phobias. Complex phobias tend to be more generalised than simple phobias although despite the name, there is nothing “simple” about having a phobia. Phobias can severely impact someone’s quality of life.
Common examples of simple phobias are:
- Animal phobias (e.g. dogs, cats, snakes).
- Location phobias (e.g. inability to walk down a certain street).
- Situational phobias (e.g. flying, dentists, doctors, injections).
- Environmental phobias (e.g. heights, water, mud, dirt).
- Physical phobias (e.g. blood, vomit, faeces, urine).
- Bodily phobias (e.g. sex, intimacy).
Two of the most common complex phobias are:
- Social phobia
Agoraphobia is not simply a fear of going outdoors (although it can be), it is usually a fear of leaving a place where there is a feeling of safety (usually the home) and/or a fear of being alone. For example, people with agoraphobia may find it extremely difficult to travel by bus, go to the supermarket, walk down the street or even leave their house. Those with agoraphobia may also fear being left alone and may constantly need company. Social phobia is a fear of other people and is not limited to social gatherings. Some people with social phobia are unable to tolerate the presence of others while walking along a pavement, or even pictured on the television.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a phobia by a medical professional, or if you think you may have one, counselling may help you overcome it. There are typically two components to the counselling I offer for phobias: firstly, I will offer to guide you through techniques to help you decrease your physical panic symptoms and secondly, I aim to help you understand the underlying causes of your problems, with a view to helping you change the way you perceive problematic situations – so that they no longer cause you as much of a problem.