Phobias

Phobia: Large spider

Phobia is an intense fear or aversion to a particular object or situation. Generally, the fear associated with phobias is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object. The fear or aversion is typically persistent and lasts for more than six months.

If you have a phobia, you might experience irrational anxiety or panic about possibly encountering the feared object or situation and take active steps to avoid them. Even when you come into contact with the feared situation , you may feel overwhelming anxiety. Anxiety is said to alter cognitive processes and cause you to perceive the world differently than it is. For instance, a person with claustrophobia might experience the space around them to be smaller than it is in reality. 

Specific Phobias can be of several types:

  • Animal Type (e.g. dogs, snakes, or spiders)
  • Natural Environment Type (e.g., heights, storms, water)
  • Blood-Injection-Injury Type (e.g. fear of seeing blood, receiving a blood test or shot, watching television shows that display medical procedures)
  • Situational Type (e.g., airplanes, elevators, driving, enclosed places)
  • Other Types (e.g., phobic avoidance of situations that may lead to choking, vomiting, or contracting an illness; in children, avoidance of loud sounds like balloons popping or costumed characters like clowns)

The pandemic has made most people feel more anxious about contracting the virus, and many have developed a phobia of germs. People with a pre-existing phobia are experiencing increased severity, and many are regressing after recovery. 

How can Counselling help?

It can be challenging to treat phobias by yourself. The good news is that counselling is a very effective method of working through them. Some common therapies used for phobias are Exposure therapy, Mindfulness based therapies and Cognitive Behavioural therapies. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging and neutralizing unhelpful or distorted thoughts underlying the aversion. Exposure therapy focuses on confronting the fears underlying the phobia to help you engage in activities you have been avoiding. Exposure therapy can also be combined with mindfulness-based relaxation or imagery techniques. Exposure therapy can also be done through a virtual simulation of the feared object, making it an effective modality. We understand how complicated it can seem to recover from phobias, especially when they are severe. We are here to support you and help you manage and eventually recover from them.

References

Fabrizo, M. (2021, January 6). For people with OCD — and fearful of germs — the pandemic is upending years of therapy [web log]. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2021/01/06/for-people-with-ocd-and-fearful-of-germs-the-pandemic-is-upending-years-of-therapy/.

Perelman School Of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). Specific phobias. Specific Phobias (Symptoms) | Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety | Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from https://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/phobias_symptoms.html#types

Lourenco, S. F., Longo, M. R., & Pathman, T. (2011). Near space and its relation to claustrophobic fear. Cognition, 119(3), 448–453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2011.02.009

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