Fears and phobias

Most people have some irrational fear of something. One is afraid of mice, another of cockroaches, another of heights. In practice, the object of fear can be anything.

And while most of these fears are normal, there are people for whom they are so strong that they become an insurmountable barrier and leave them paralyzed with terror. When the fear reaches such terrible proportions that dealing with it seems impossible, then it is most likely a phobia.

What is a phobia?

In short, a phobia is an irrational fear of a situation that does not actually pose any threat to us. It can form in early childhood, but it can also appear in adulthood. It is characteristic of the phobia that it can be towards anything, although the most common phobias are of insects, needles, closed spaces, the dentist and heights.

It is important to know that having a phobia is not a sign of mental illness. It’s just a type of anxiety disorder, but it can poison our whole life. There are cases where people turn down a new well-paying job that they really like just because they will have to ride in an elevator, and it terrifies them.

The difference between a normal fear and a phobia

The difference between a normal fear and a phobia is huge. In fact, fear is something very useful for man, because it protects us from dangerous situations.

If, for example, you are afraid of a Doberman running across the meadow, this is not a phobia, but if you are afraid of a shaggy poodle who is just looking for company to play with – it is already.

In case of danger, the brain creates a situation known as “fight or flight”. At this moment, a person experiences an extremely strong rush of adrenaline and the pulse accelerates.

The goal is either to escape as fast and as far as possible or to deal with the danger in the most painless way possible for us. These days, however, few situations are so risky, and “fight or flight” is starting to cause us problems.

Types of phobias

According to their nature and the object of fear, phobias can be divided into four groups:

– animal phobias – snakes, spiders, rodents, dogs;
– phobias from the natural environment – water, heights, darkness, storms, thunder;
– situational phobias – flying, closed spaces, highways , bridges, elevators;
– blood, injections, injuries – here comes the fear of needles and all kinds of medical manipulations;

Other types of phobias

While these four groups are quite broad, there are still some fairly popular phobias that don’t fall into any of them. One such is the quite popular social phobia.

With her, people are afraid of situations in which they can become a laughing stock or be criticized. People with social phobia experience difficulties with communication.

It can be a real terror for them to stand up and speak in front of a group of people. In this type of situation, the sufferer fears the opinion of other individuals and avoids any situation in which he can be rejected and criticized.

The most popular form of social phobia, and one of the most popular phobias in general, is the fear of public speaking of any type.

Agoraphobia is another such phobia. It doesn’t quite fit into any of the four categories we listed above. Traditionally, it is expressed in fear of public places and open spaces.

This type of phobia is thought to usually develop as a complication of past panic attacks in open places.

Sufferers become anxious when they are in situations where escape would be difficult or inconvenient, and when help cannot be provided immediately in case of need.

People with this phobia avoid busy places like shopping malls and movie theaters. Some people also avoid cars, planes, and other forms of travel. In more severe cases, sufferers may feel safe only at home.

When should we seek help for phobias and fears?

Although quite scary, some phobias do not cause the sufferer any stress. For example, if you live in an urban environment and have a phobia of snakes, most likely this will not bother you in the least, no matter how terrible the phobia is.

On the other hand, a much weaker phobia could make your life hell, for example if you have a phobia of crowded places and live in a big city.

It is most correct to answer honestly whether your phobia disturbs and spoils your quality of life, and if so – it is best to seek specialized help.

Consider treatment for your phobia if:

– it causes intense and blocking fear, anxiety and panic.
– you feel your fear is excessive and unreasonable.
– you avoid certain situations and places because of your phobia.
– if you avoid common everyday situations because of your fear or if it causes you significant stress.
– you have had a phobia for at least six months.

How can we help ourselves and which treatment is best?

When it comes to treating phobias, self-help and professional therapy strategies can be most effective when combined. Which is best for you depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your phobia and your financial capabilities.

Generally speaking, self-help is always welcome and really worth a try. The more you can do for yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be in your own skin.

When it comes to phobias and fears, however, you may have to go a long way. However, if your phobia is severe enough to cause uncontrollable anxiety or panic attacks, it’s best to seek additional help.

The good news is that therapists are generally very experienced in this area. Not only do most work extremely well, but you’ll likely see results very quickly – sometimes in just 1 to 4 sessions.

Also, it is good to have someone by your side who can hold your hand in such situations. This is a very good tool to combat phobias.

Techniques in the treatment of phobias

1. Face to face with fear

It is quite natural for every person to avoid the things they fear. In treating phobias, however, it is very important to face what is troubling you.

While avoidance will definitely make you feel comfortable in the short term, in the long term it is better to face the fear and realize that it is not as scary as you think.

If you only avoid frightening situations, you will never discover how much strength you have to deal with them. As a result, they (the fears) will take root more and more deeply.

Usually the best way to overcome a fear is to expose yourself to the stimulus gradually and in a controlled environment.

Gradually in this way you will gain control over fear and it will lose its power. Successfully dealing with phobias takes planning, practice and patience.

Make a list of the frightening situations associated with your phobia.

If you are afraid of flying, you can book a flight, pack your suitcase, drive to the airport, watch the planes take off and land, then go through security, get on the plane, and listen to the flight attendant as she presents the safety instructions.

This is an example of how to break each thing down into steps. If there is such an opportunity, make a list of everything that scares you.

Then face the smallest of your fears by gradually raising the bar. Gradually, your mind will get used to stressful situations and get the feeling that it has them under control.

It all starts with small steps that can take you very far. A good example would be the fear of dogs. First look at pictures of dogs, then watch funny dog ​​videos.

Then bring a dog on a leash 10 steps closer, then 5 steps closer. Then you can stand next to a small dog on a leash, and then next to a larger one. Gradually you can seek contact with the animal and pet it.

Practice frequent exposure to the stimulus and it will adapt you very quickly.

2. Learn relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation and meditation are powerful weapons to help you release fear and tension.

And if you have a phobia, you know very well that the physical symptoms are one of the most unpleasant things that the person with the phobia experiences. Once you have mastered your shallow breathing, rapid pulse, trembling, and softened limbs, you will feel very much in control of your fear.

3. Challenge your negative thoughts and fears. In fact, the more you run from your fears, the more they will haunt you.

Do this: take time to think about what you fear, why, when, what you think, what you imagine – all in detail. Write it on a piece of paper.

Think about it for a while, imagine a situation where you face your fear. You will gradually get used to it and you will not be so afraid.


Typically, fears start with a negative attitude. “The elevator is going to get stuck!” or “The dog is going to bite me!” or “I’m afraid to fly by plane because an accident might happen” – these are all negative patterns.

But if instead you try “Everyone rides the elevator, but I’ve never seen anyone get hurt by it!” or “I love dogs, they are such sensitive animals and they just need someone to take care of them and love them! or “It will be a wonderful flight and I will be able to enjoy our beautiful planet from a bird’s eye view!” you’ll be surprised how much of a positive effect this can have on you!

Three golden tips:

– Think about previous times when you faced your fears and nothing bad happened.

– If the worst happens and you are gripped by irrational fear while driving on the highway just pull over for a while and wait for the panic to pass without trying to fight it or outsmart it – just bear it until it passes.

– Do not be afraid of airplane flights. Flying is much more convenient and comfortable than all other modes of transport and you will not feel anything. In heaven, there is no cracked asphalt or loose gravel to spoil your trip. And if you are afraid that the plane will fall, just think that statistically this type of transport is the safest.

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