Fear is a common and natural human emotion. But when fears are overwhelming, they might manifest as a phobia. A phobia is an extreme and debilitating fear of a situation, object, place, animal or feeling. Phobias are more pronounced than fears and entail an unrealistic sense of danger about a specific situation or object. Phobias can severely impact a person’s emotional well-being and in some case they can take over their life. In these extreme cases, a person who suffers from a phobia might arrange his/her whole life around avoiding the specific cause of the phobia to minimize distress.
If you suffer from a phobia, you are likely to experience some or most of the following symptoms:
- Symptoms akin to panic attacks such as heart palpitations, breathlessness, sweating, trembling, dizziness, shivering, nausea, blurred vision and intense fear of dying and/or fear of losing control
- Intense fear or anxiety about a specific place, situation, object, animal or feeling which could evoke responses such as crying, freezing, tensing up, escaping/avoiding the situation or clinging to other persons
- Immediate fear or anxiety as a response to the source of phobia
- Active avoidance of the phobic situation or object
- Disproportional fear response to the actual danger posed by the object or situation
- Severe daily life disruption due to the phobia
There are specific and complex phobias. Examples of specific phobias are:
- Animal phobias such as an intense fear of insects, birds, dogs, spiders, snakes, rodents, etc.
- Bodily phobias such as an intense fear in the sight of blood, injections or vomit.
- Environmental phobias such as an intense fear of germs, deep water, heights, darkness etc.
- Sexual phobias such as an intense fear regarding sexual performance and fear of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Situational phobias such as an intense fear of flying, claustrophobia (confined spaces), or visiting the dentist, doctor or the hospital
Examples of complex phobias are:
- Social phobia