By Subashini Rajasuriah
Picture yourself standing on the 25th floor of a building with glass paneling. You keep a good distance from the windows because you have a peculiar feeling in your throat and a gripping sensation building in your stomach. Peering out seems almost unthinkable but you do it anyway, instantly regretting it as your palms begin to sweat. As absurd as it seems you can’t help but imagine the glass smashing and a strong gust of wind shoving you to your death, among other scenarios that play out in your head every time you are faced with unpleasant heights. That my friend is called Phobia.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) there are 3 main clusters of phobias namely specific phobias, social phobia and agoraphobia.
Specific phobias are usually an intense, irrational fear of a specific trigger. These phobias are a baser form of phobias as they are linked to an identifiable cause that may not frequently occur in the daily activities of an individual, such as fear of snakes, spiders, heights and water. These phobias usually develop during childhood.
Social phobia or commonly referred to as social anxiety disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder have difficulty talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They fear being judged or scrutinized by others. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them. This is not the same as being shy or introverted.
Agoraphobia is a fear of situations from which it would be difficult to find an escape route if a person were to experience sudden and extreme panic. It is often misunderstood as a fear of open spaces but could also apply to being in confined spaces, such as an elevator, or being on public transport. They’ll avoid situations that cause anxiety and may only leave the house with a trusted individual such as a friend or partner. This phobia can also stem from deep-seated trauma that has resulted in them becoming a shut-in.
The important thing to take away from this is that phobias are highly treatable, and people who have them are usually aware of their disorder which helps speed up diagnosis a great deal.
If the phobia does not cause severe problems, most people find that adopting some self-care methods such as talking to their loved ones, incorporating relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and other coping methods help in trying to regain some sense of control.
However, if the phobia interferes with daily activities, it is best to seek professional help. Most phobias can be cured with appropriate treatment. There is no single treatment that works for every person with a phobia. Treatment needs to be tailored to the individual for it to work.
A psychiatrist or psychologist may recommend behavioral therapy, medications, or a combination of both aimed at reducing fear and anxiety symptoms and helping people manage their reactions to the object of their phobia.