Here, you can find out everything you wanted to know about phobias (or at least we hope so!). You can click (or touch) each of the headings below to find out more about specific aspects of the condition.
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Everyone will be afraid of something. Yes, even you! It's natural to be scared in certain situations, or to be scared of particular objects, but that isn't the same as a phobia.
If you were being chased by a hungry lion, your body would naturally release chemicals to help your 'fight or flight' mechanism and you'd react accordingly. That experience may well be scary (obviously, it wouldn't affect you, you're hard) but it wouldn't necessarily give you a phobia of lions. A phobia takes being scared to a whole other level.
A phobia is an extreme form of fear that can be triggered by an object, a place or a situation. The fear can feel very real, even if the actual danger isn't. If you have a fear that lasts more than six months and significantly impacts on how you live your life, then you may be diagnosed with a phobia.
Phobias can relate to any number of objects, scenarios or locations but are generally divided into two categories; specific or 'simple' phobias and 'complex' phobias.
Simple phobias generally centre around particular 'things'; whether they are animals, situations or activities. They often develop when you're younger and become less severe as you grow up and begin to understand the world and how it works. Simple phobias can relate to:
- Animals; snakes, rats, spiders, etc.
- Body-Related; the sight of blood, vomit or the fear of injections.
- Environmental factors; heights, germs, water, etc.
- Situational; flying; visits to the hospital or dentist, etc.
- Sexual; the fear of having, shall we say, 'performance' issues or catching an Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
Complex phobias tend to be more disabling that 'simple' phobias. They include Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety Disorder. They are also more likely to develop as an adult and are often associated with a deep-rooted fear about a particular situation.
I'm sure we all know how fear feels. How your body reacts when you are genuinely scared of something. It's the same for phobia suffers, but much more intense. The physical symptoms can include:
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed, which can also include the fear of passing out.
- Increased heart rate or palpitations.
- Shortness of breath.
- Feeling sick (nausea).
- Chest pain.
- Sweating with hot or cold flushes.
- Shaking or trembling uncontrollably.
When these symptoms become very intense, they can trigger a panic attack. As phobias can be quite severe and terrifying in their own right, those with a phobia often isolate themselves away from situations they recognise as potential triggers. Consequently, this isolation can develop because of embarrassment, which can lead into depression as they shy away from situations they feel may trigger another attack.
You may not be surprised to learn that there isn't a singular cause for anyone's phobia. It may be caused by any number of factors, but the more common ones often include the phobia developing from a traumatic incident as a child.
If, for example, you fell into water as a child and couldn't swim, then a phobia of water may develop. It may also be a learned response because of a fear that a parent or sibling has. If they're scared of it, then you can develop that too.
There is also evidence to suggest that people are genetically born with phobias, but there's no concrete research to quantify that.
If you suffer with any sort of phobia, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.
Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with any sort of phobia with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.