A phobia is an excessive fear of a place, object or situation which in reality does not represent much of a threat. Coming into contact with the source of your fear can produce a variable response depending on the strength of your phobia. Responses can range from being annoyed or scared to a feeling of dread that can be disabling and affect your daily life and relationships.

Few of the different kinds of phobias include:

  • Social phobia: fear of social situations
  • Agoraphobia: fear of open spaces or crowds
  • Acrophobia: fear of heights
  • Claustrophobia: fear of confined spaces such as cars and elevators
  • Arachnophobia: fear of spiders

Phobias can result from unpleasant previous life experiences such as being locked up or bitten by an insect. It may be genetic in origin and is seen in families with anxiety issues. People with certain medical conditions, brain injuries, substance abuse and depression are also known to develop phobias.

Phobias may produce the symptoms of a panic attack which include rapid heart rate, shortness of breathing, trembling, inability to speak, dry mouth, sweating and chest pain. Fear has the upper hand even if you realise that it is irrational.

Childhood phobias usually resolve as one gets older. Phobias that persist and are significantly affecting your life usually need therapy. Your doctor may treat your phobia with cognitive behavioural therapy which exposes you to the source of your fear in a controlled manner in order to desensitise you and change the thoughts and beliefs that help shape your fear. Your doctor may prescribe anti anxiety medications and antidepressants to control the symptoms of phobia. A combination of medication and therapy is usually very effective.

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