A phobia generally refers to an unreasonable and overwhelming fear of a situation or an object which provokes avoidance and anxiety but poses little real danger. Unlike the common brief anxieties people feel, phobias are long-lasting and potentially cause intense psychological and physical reactions, which affect your ability to operate normally either at work or within social contexts.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 5 to 12 percent of Americans of all ages have phobias. There are several types of phobias including the fear of open spaces, fear of heights, fear of reptiles, arachnids, flying, elevators, and many other things. Not every phobia needs treatment, but whenever a certain phobia affects your day-to-day life and normal functioning, then you should find a therapist for phobias to help you better deal with the situation.
Phobias can be classified into three main groups:
Specific Phobias – These refer to a persistent and irrational fear of specific objects or situations which compared to the actual risk, is completely out of proportion. Specific phobias are common in children as well as adults and they may either disappear with time or last for a long time. Statisticians and medical researchers estimate 20 percent of specific phobias in adults disappear over time without treatment, which means 80 percent require medical or expert intervention. Example of specific phobias includes fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of cats (ailurophobia), and fear of pins and needles (belonephobia) among many others.
Social Phobia – This type of phobia extends beyond shyness to include complex combination of fear of public scrutiny and excessive self-consciousness. The affected person fears being rejected or evaluated in a negative way. People who are social phobic also fear offending others.
Fear of Open Spaces – Also known as agoraphobia, this class of fears includes real or anticipated situations such as standing in line, using public transportation, being outside your home alone, being in a cloud among others. This fear is commonly associated with people who have previously suffered panic attacks making the affected fear another attack and hence avoiding all open spaces. In others, this fear is so intense they cannot leave home, which is also linked to agoraphobia.
Symptoms of Phobias
Irrespective of the type of phobia you may have, the following are some of the reactions common in all cases:
- Uncontrollable terror, panic, or dread when exposed to the source of fear
- Inability to operate normally because of the anxiety
- Psychological and physical reactions including rapid heartbeat, sweating, breathing difficulties, intense anxiety and panic
- A feeling you must take all the steps within your power to avoid the source of your fear
- Crying, clinging, and tantrums in affected children
- Feeling powerless in controlling your unreasonable and exaggerated fears
When to See an Online Therapist
Where the phobias cause anxiety and affect your normal functioning, you should consider booking an appointment with a psychologist for professional attention. With the right therapy, most sufferers can be helped.
Among other things an online therapist can do is to unearth the risk factors connected to your phobias, which may include your age, genetic lineage, your level of temperament, and past traumatic events.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Phobias
Phobia diagnosis is done through a clinical interview where the therapist will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing as well as your psychiatric, medical, and social history. The American Psychiatric Association published a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which contains the criteria for being diagnosed with a phobia.
Phobia treatment is through psychotherapy where a trained specialist takes you through a gradual and repeated exposure therapy or desensitization, so as to change your response to the situation or object you fear. Online therapy may also include cognitive behavioral therapy where the exposure is combined with a variety of other techniques to help you learn ways to cope with the feared situation or object.
With early intervention and treatment, phobias can be permanently treated.
This is why the Virtual Therapist Network has brought together a pool of resourceful and qualified online therapists to simplify the process of finding a therapist for phobias.