- Mental Health
Phobias Can Hold Us Back From Living Life to the Fullest
There are many common things such as: objects, animals and places that most people will not give a second thought to, before approaching or even being near them, while there are others that can not bear, even the very thought of these objects, animals or place. I for one, have a severe fear of snakes. It doesn’t matter whether the snake is poisonous or benign, I will panic if I’m confronted by a snake. I remember years ago being at a store and a young man was wearing a snake around his neck, in the same way most of us would wear jewelry. The young man was very comfortable with his pet and enjoyed wearing his pet around his neck. When I realized that the young man was standing next to me and I saw his pet, I hardly could catch my breath and had to leave the room immediately. The same snake had two people relate to it in entirely different ways.
The word phobia is from the Greek language and it means: a strong but irrational fear of something. We must ask ourselves what is at the root of our phobias. According to the Naples Florida Weekly Newspaper phobias do not tend to just materialize without a cause. The article goes on to say: “All phobias are coping mechanisms” it is us saying to ourselves “This is how I am going to face this feeling.” A traumatic event such as a car crash can create a phobia. Phobias are often learned behavior. If our parents are afraid of snakes or spiders, it is very likely that on of us will have a life long fear of snakes or spiders. Phobias do not happen in a vacuum there are usually various factors involved.
The Naples Florida Weekly also says that phobias can be a symptom of a much greater concern, such as death, alienation, and fear of our own limitations. It states that these are: “Issues that most people would rather stuff in the deepest crevices of the mind rather than face—can sometimes take on different, albeit, safer symbols such as snakes, dark rooms or the bogeymen.” This is a way of connecting a deep and vague fear to something more concrete. It is more comforting to say, I have a fear of snakes, rather than to look deeper into ones mind, and realize that one’s real fear is something that is not easily controlled, like death. We distract ourselves with our phobias. This keeps us from having to remember what really is bothering us.
Phobias have varying degrees. There are those who only fear when confronted by the source of their fears. Unfortunately, other phobias have a debilitating effect. For example some people have to make emergency visits to the dentist because they do not have regular check ups, due to fear of going to the dentist. If phobias cause the sufferer to stop living a normal life, it may be necessary to seek treatment.
Most phobias originated in childhood. They are either learned behavior, from one’s parents of something that happened as a child that created an irrational fear, due to a very real event. For example: I know of a young man who was terribly afraid of the dark and could never sleep alone. This fear was attributed to the fact that as a child his father used to punish him by placing him in a locked dark closet. This cruel punishment created such anxiety for this young man that he even needed antidepressants when he was an adolescent.
Because phobias have their source they can be treated. Most experts recommend cognitive and behavioral treatments when dealing with phobias. Things that are learned can be unlearned is the premise for treating phobias. The level of anxiety and the severity of the fear pretty much determines how much therapy the person will need to overcome their phobias. There are a variety of treatments ranging from oral sedation to good old fashioned compassion. Understanding the patient and his fear is vital to a successful treatment of phobias. Creating a narrative for the individual to see why they are afraid of something is vital in helping the patient overcome his or her phobias.
Some people have dealt with phobias by simply facing their fears. Examples of this would be someone who is afraid of snakes, and chooses to work in a pet store that sells reptiles and part of their job is feeding and caring for snakes, or someone who is afraid of small spaces that choose to take elevators often as way of conquering her fear of elevators. I personally would not recommend doing this, unless the person has found a way of relieving his or her anxiety level, when confronted by the situation or object. If not, the anxiety could be too great and there is a risk of shock or their phobias could become more intense. If certain events or objects cause an overwhelming degree of anxiety, it is wise to seek professional help to overcome that phobia.
Statistics and Names of Phobias Common and Unusual
There are some very interesting statistics in regards to phobias, they are as follows: there are 11.5 million sufferers of phobias in the U.S. alone; females are more prone to irrational fears than men. It has been documented that twice as many women suffer from panic than men. Unfortunately, only twenty percent of phobias acquired in childhood go away when one becomes an adult.
Phobias Common and Unusual
Here is a listing of some common phobias:
- · Agoraphobia: Fear of open spaces, or crowded public places
- · Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces
- · Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders
- · Acrophobia: Fear of heights
- · Mysophobia: Fear of being contaminated with dirt or germs
- · Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners
- · Brontophobia: Fear of thunder and lightning
- · Carcinophobia: Fear of cancer
Here is a listing of unusual phobias:
- Oenophobia: Fear of wines
- Pteronophobia: Fear of being tickled
- Sominphobia: Fear of sleeping
- Sophophobia: Fear of learning
- Coulrophobia: Fear of clowns
- Ablutophobia: Fear of washing or bathing
If you are ever with someone who has severe phobias do not make fun of that person, even if their fears are irrational and seem silly. If you suffer from severe phobias and uncontrolled anxiety, for no apparent reason, you need to seek help. It is unhealthy to have to live like a shut in or to find yourself avoiding healthy interaction with others because of irrational fears. While fear itself, is a healthy defense mechanism that helps us avoid dangerous situations, irrational fears only cause us to avoid living a full and productive life.