Let’s take a look at how our mind works and how we can develop a phobia to something. A phobia what is it? How is it different from just being anxious or nervous about something? I believe things can start as being something that just makes us nervous but can build up over time to a phobia. Also, we can instantly develop a phobia, if we have experienced a trauma or traumatic events have happened, or even if we have experienced a level of shock in the situation, these situations can push us directly into a phobia state.
A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. Phobias are more pronounced than fears and always come with a physical instantaneous response when being exposed to the thing, we are phobic too. We will have an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object and respond in a flight, fight or freeze response to these things. Things can start as just a fear, but if we start to organise our life around avoiding the thing that’s causing the anxiety and restricting our day-to-day life it can cause things to escalate. Our mind works on input and output, so if we keep avoiding things then we are just putting in lots of fear messages to our mind and this is going to trigger our mind to enhance the levels of these already distorted fear responses.
Phobia symptoms can be wide-ranging here are some of the symptoms you might be experiencing unsteadiness, dizziness and light-headedness, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate or palpitations, shortness of breath, trembling or shaking and an upset stomach to name just a few. If you do not come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life that much, for example, things like snake phobias when you live in England as we just don’t see many of them. But if it is a complex phobia, such as agoraphobia which will manifest in many different situations, it is debilitating and leading a normal life may be very difficult.
Phobias can be divided into two main categories specific or simple phobias and complex phobias. Specific or simple phobias centre around a particular object, animal, situation or activity many of these develop during childhood or adolescence. It can go either way we can find ourselves growing out of them and not being that bothered any more or they can become more severe as you get older. This is normally due to the fact that we start to avoid situations and in doing so we send more messages of fear to our brain and this, in turn, causes the fears to escalate. Here are some of the common one’s; animal phobias – such as dogs, spiders, snakes or rodents, environmental phobias – such as heights, deep water and germs situational phobias – such as visiting the dentist driving or flying, bodily phobias – such as blood, vomit or having injections.
Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias, they usually develop during adulthood and are often associated with a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about a particular situation or circumstance, but underlying worries can starts in childhood or the phobia can be triggered by PTSD or a traumatic event. The two most common ones are social phobias and agoraphobia which Is often thought of as a fear of going out, but it’s much more complex than this.
Someone with agoraphobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be difficult if they have a panic attack. It is often centred around the fear of the fear and people ending up in a massive circle of avoidance over things, which escalates this into quite a complex phobia. Social phobia, on the other hand, is very broad in what people can fear and are becoming more common for people, it centres around feeling anxious in social situations. If you have a social phobia, you might be afraid of speaking in front of people for fear of embarrassing yourself and being humiliated in public. With this type of phobia, you can become very worried about what people think of you and will have developed lots of things that make you anxious. If your social anxiety is getting severe it can become debilitating and may prevent you from carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends.
Phobias do not have a single cause, but there are a number of associated factors, it could be associated with a particular incident or trauma, or it can be a learned response that a person develops early in life from a parent or close family member. You might well think why doesn’t every child develop this then if their parent has a certain phobia? This is because some people are more sensitive to things and are more prone to be worriers or maybe already have anxiety. These types of people will more than likely be the people that will develop the phobia whereas their siblings with a tougher mindset won’t be bothered at all or will just grow out of it. Some people have become very complacent with their phobia and have just settled with the fact they have it and choose to just live with it. But often for many people, there is a tipping point where we feel we can’t go on like this and then seeking help to help find a new way forward becomes essential.
After 26 years working with all sorts of phobias and fears from the normal sick, dogs, needles, heights and flying to some of the more unusual like buttons and the fear of supernatural attacks. Everyone always says when they are feeling better about it that they wish they had done it sooner and wonder why they left it so long to deal with it. Over the next few blogs, I will help you find ways that can help you deal with your phobias and start getting your life back to a happier more balanced place.
Thanks for dropping by Sara x