Fear is sometimes a rational and vital emotion. If someone was afraid of fire burning them, it would make them avoid places or situations where they could be in contact with open flames. Fear can be a useful survival tool that steers us away from engaging in dangerous activities. It tempers our judgment and fuels our self-preservation.
However, some people experience irrational fears. These people feel that certain events, animals, or situations are threatening them even if it doesn’t make any sense or if these things aren’t around them. These people are afflicted with phobias, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these irrational fears affect 19 million adults in the country.
Know Their Fear
Phobias are different from normal fear stimuli because of their exaggerated and irrational nature. They are recognized and diagnosable mental disorders, and medical experts can recommend patients specific medications or a combination of medical hypnosis and healing therapy to treat them or their symptoms.
There are three types of phobias that the American Psychiatric Association recognizes:
- Agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in a situation that would be hard to escape. Although people mistakenly think that agoraphobics are only afraid of open spaces, being in a car, a small room, or outside their house can send them into a panic.
- Social phobia or anxiety, which is the profound terror of others judging them in social events or humiliating them in public. Unlike people who are only shy, those who suffer from social anxiety are afraid of large gatherings.
- Specific phobias, which require certain triggers, such as snakes, birds, diseases, or the dark. Even in the absence of these triggers, people with specific phobias can be afraid of the mere possibility of encountering their fears.
When someone with a phobia encounters their trigger, they experience overwhelming anxiety, the strong urge to run away from the source of their terror, inability to function, and understanding that their fear is out of proportion. But they are unable to manage it. They could also manifest physical symptoms, such as trembling, cold sweats, dizziness, and tightness of the chest.
Although the emotions and the physical effects of phobias may seem severe, they are treatable with the proper methods.
Agoraphobia and social phobia are complex phobias and are much harder, but not impossible, to treat than specific phobias. However, a medical professional first has to diagnose them, so they can receive appropriate treatment.
If the expert concludes that the phobia is not strong enough to cause any major problems, they may recommend that the patient only avoid their triggers. If it’s impossible or extremely difficult to avoid the triggers, or the symptoms are severe enough, the doctor can prescribe medication or therapy to help the patient manage the fear.
Medications such as beta-blockers and tranquilizers can help suppress the physical symptoms of severe phobias. Patients can also apply for exposure therapy, where psychotherapists expose them to their fear triggers in controlled environments to slowly desensitize them of their terror. The union of these two forms of treatment can put an end to the phobia.
Irrational fear is a hindrance to someone who wants to live a normal life. More people should understand the nature of phobias and know that they can vanquish their fears, with help from their loved ones and medical professionals.