Have you ever started stammering while drenched in sweat when you step in the limelight in front of an audience? Have you ever shrieked and climbed up on to the nearest furniture when a mouse wobbled past you? Do needles ever make you feel faint? If you answered in the affirmative then you may suffer from a phobia.

Phobias are defined as the irrational fears of a situation, activity or object which makes you desire to avoid it. But phobias do not end up perturbing most of us unless they are so severe that they hamper our daily life with the anxiety they cause. Even the most distressing of phobias can be managed with effective therapy and self-help.

Around 6 million people on an average are afflicted with phobias and surprisingly the mean age for the onset of phobias was calculated to be 10 years. Women are twice as likely to suffer from phobias as men. So you can always gain solace from the fact that you are not alone with this problem.

Types of phobias

Phobias can be diverse ranging from being scared of speaking for an audience to being petrified at the sight of clowns or blood. Generally they can be classified into three basic types:

  1. Social phobias: These encompass situations which demand social interactions. It could present itself as what we commonly call stage fright or as hesitancy to meet new people or going to parties. People harboring these phobias may have an introvert personality type and suffer from a lack of confidence. As kids, they are loners and they grow up into people with very few friends.
  2. Agoraphobia: This is the phobia of being in an inescapable situation or one from which escape would cause humiliation. It also includes an irrational fear of open spaces, public places or any other area where a panic or anxiety attack could start. Agoraphobia can be quite debilitating as it is commonly present with a co-existing panic disorder.
  3. Specific phobias: This is a wide category and involves the fear of specific situations or objects. The sufferers subconsciously try to avoid the specific situation that caused them to writhe in fear hence people with specific phobias rarely seek professional help.

How to recognise your phobia condition

Phobias generally present with symptoms of a panic attack. If you respond with the following symptoms to a situation then there is a chance that you are phobic to it:

  • A feeling of apprehension and terror despite the recognition that they are irrational on the basis of any real danger
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Feeling light headed or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast heart beat or palpitations
  • Trouble breathing or thinking clearly
  • Taking extreme or impossible measures to escape the situation.

How to beat your fears and phobias

Most people live a miserable life in an attempt to seek escape or in an attempt to conceal your phobias. Phobias can cause hindrance in your life to a great deal. For instance people with a fear of flying will endure great pains to avoid travel. Most face detrimental performance at school or work and might even face a failed marriage in return of an attempt to struggle with their phobias. Many end up integrating difficult choices as a form of lifestyle in the fight against their phobia. But they can be managed effectively by seeking the right therapy and counselling for phobias. A Combination of psychotherapy and medications is most effective.

The various treatment options for phobias available include:

  1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This therapy involves three components to help defeat your phobias. The first part is called a didactic component which constitutes familiarising the individual with their condition and the treatment procedure while simultaneously preparing a positive and cooperative mindset for the therapy. The second component is cognitive and deals with any thoughts or assumptions that may have resulted in the person developing the certain phobia. The third component is behavioural and involves practically oriented techniques that alter the individual’s strategies in dealing with the problem.
  2. Desensitisation: This therapy has proved very effective as a part of self-help program where the sufferer is treated by psychotherapy. It involves a supportive and gradual exposure to circumstances that are close to the specific phobia the person is suffering from in increasing doses till the individual is not afraid of it anymore.
  3. Medication: Where CBT and desensitising have failed, medication has created waves in dealing with phobias. Most successful in the treatment has been the advent of SSRIs like fluoxetine and escitalopram. Sometimes beta blockers like propranolol and  benzodiazepines have also been proved effective. But noncompliance of the individuals to the drugs and side effects are factors that made this treatment less favoured among the masses. Drugs also mostly only treat the symptoms and not the underlying causes.

Fear is a natural human response to all things unbeatable. For many this is heightened in the shape of phobias. There are better ways than hiding for seeking solace for your phobic condition. Don’t let your phobias change your life. Strike back through the right channel and emerge victorious.

If you need support for a phobia that is getting in the way of you living a full life, Australia Counselling links you with professional counsellors, social workers and psychologists that can help. Visit our phobia page to find counsellors that work with this issue in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.