Throughout ones life everybody can experience various stressful situations that may cause overwhelming fear and anxiety. However, not everyone acquires phobias. They relate to specific psychological ailments caused by tremendous irrational fear and anxiety. The conditions stated above can drastically compromise human life and transform a person into a social outcast. Phobia-related behavioral abnormalities substantially deteriorate the overall health status and restrict social communication and activities. Nowadays, approximately 10% of the Americans suffer from phobic disorders. Behaviorists estimate the discussed disorders as erroneous reaction or respond to a certain stimulus. They consider phobias as a response to some past conflict situations. There is a comprehensive range of phobias caused by a specific object or a situation, which may arouse the dreads and anxiety. Basically, the researchers differentiate social, specific phobias and agoraphobia. The combination of psychotherapy and medication help to manage phobias appropriately. Cognitive behavioral therapy assists in resolving a psychological dilemma and creates more positive and constructive response to fear, whereas medication facilitates anxiety reduction. Both therapeutic approaches successfully prevent phobias from becoming chronic and obsessive.
Keywords: phobia, social, fear, psychotherapy
Phobic disorder belongs to a group of anxiety disorders that can interfere with daily activity and drastically disturb mental stability under certain circumstances. Unawareness of phobic impairments may postpone appropriate medical and behavioral management and consequently deteriorate the overall health of a person. Thus, it is crucial to get educated on the indicated issue for revealing psychological abnormality in proper time. The present paper provides an overview of various phobic disorders, scrutinizes their causes and clinical manifestations along with the description of various efficient therapies.
The definition phobia originates from Greek meaning fear and anxiety. The American Psychiatric Association specifies phobia as an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. Other medical and psychology-oriented sources emphasize on the persistent fear that accompanies life activity or a thing, or a situation that cause avoidant or escape behavior. Approximately 19 million Americans suffer from phobic disorders that may dramatically complicate their lives. Various types of phobia entail psycho-emotional overstrain due to extreme fear and unease that is caused by something specific. The studied psychological abnormalities imbalance certain neurotransmitters inside the brain and consequently lead to the inadequate, disrupted modulation inside the central nervous system. The discussed mental impairments are basically associated with particular fear and overwhelming distress that prevent any person from fulfilling certain duties under certain circumstances. Phobic disorders can significantly affect the process of communication and social interaction of the affected people with the surroundings. Having such mental blocks, the people commonly experience a deep sense of dread or panic when the one encounters the source of fear. Their reaction becomes annoying and eventually may transform into even disabling condition. All phobias caused by extreme anxiety and fear can considerably undermine ones mental health, provoke escape behavior that complicates social smooth functioning and affect the person destructively.
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Genetic and environmental factors actively participate in developing various phobias. Recurrent distressing or traumatic events, exposure to confined spaces, extreme heights, insect or animal bites relate to environmental causes of phobic state. The presence of a phobiac in the family increases the incidence of acquiring the same disorder in the future generations. Such interconnection indicates the genetic factors involvement. It is curious to come to know that women and children are more susceptible to phobias. Various family histories, parenting style, stressful life events, including brain injuries, are the predisposing factors for acquiring different kinds of the indicated ailment.
Despite the comprehensive variety of phobic disorders, they all coincide in one clinical manifestation, which is overwhelming, persistent fear that completely seizes a person. Symptoms and signs of phobias depend on the specific type. Exposure to the fear object or situation, or even merely thinking about it may precipitate phobia-related response. The studied disorders commonly get associated with such vegetative disturbances as dizziness, excessive sweating, tremor or trembling, shortness of breath, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat and nausea. They are capable of triggering hypertensive seizures and pains in the chest. Confused mind due to the feeling of unreality, sometimes a fear of death and the extreme preoccupation with the object of fear demonstrate psychosomatic features. Phobias are frequently detected due to communicative impairments as rapid speech or inability to speak. Phobic disorders are associated with a feeling of impending doom, and escape behavior patterns. Therefore, such mental condition entails various physical, cognitive and behavioral abnormalities.
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The American Psychiatric Association classifies all present phobias in three main types: social, agoraphobia and specific phobias. Social phobia is alternatively called as social anxiety disorder. It is specified as a significant, intense fear of becoming extremely anxious and possibly humiliated in social situations. This kind of phobia progresses due to unreasonable, severe anxiety of experiencing judgment, or embarrassment, or rejection. People affected by social phobia are fearful of being criticized or receive negative estimations from the society. This state is associated with persistent fear of social or performance situations that mean public exposure to unknown people. Furthermore, people affected by social phobia are frequently reluctant to appear or perform in public. They encounter difficulties in creating social contacts and may fail in fulfilling important responsibilities. Extreme fears of social or public performances make them either avoid such events or experience them with huge distress. Thus, the avoidant behavior prevents a person from normal occupational functioning, career and social activities, or any other relationships. Staying among people can cause blushing, trembling, or sweating in a person with the social phobia.
Specific phobias are characterized by unreasonable fear of specific objects or situations. This kind of disorder proceeds mildly without inducing severe diseases. They are primarily short-term and remain active till the object of threat or a threatening situation intimidate. Specific phobias can be categorized into situational, animals, medical and environmental subgroups. People attacked by specific phobia experience panicky feelings, dizziness, heart palpitations, sweating, and disturbed breathing. The most phobic people are aware of their behavioral abnormality, but prefer tolerating it than treating it accordingly. People with specific phobias endeavor to avoid objects and situations they fear and it consequently may restrict their activities.
Agoraphobia is one more exclusive kind of phobic disorders. It involves a tremendous fear of being trapped in an inescapable place or situation that can turn into paralyzing terror and develop avoidant behavior in the affected persons. People suffering such disorder evade confronting locations or situations they are extremely fearful. Agoraphobia sufferers are prone to experience panic attacks when they are in public places. This condition can be a consequence of repeated sudden panic attacks, which can relate to cognitive distortions, conditioned responses, and abnormalities in noradrenergic, serotonergic, or GABA-related neurotransmission.
Psychotherapy, medication, or psychotherapy and medication combined demonstrate high-level effectiveness in treating phobias. Psychotherapy is beneficial in detecting and resolving mental impairments caused by previously hidden anxieties and fears. Cognitive behavioral therapy assumes application of cognitive and exposure therapies. Cognitive therapy makes a person to recognize, challenge and eliminate destructive thoughts. It helps to readjust ones thinking process that may improve ones behavior. Exposure therapy mostly focuses on confronting the fears when affected people are forced to encounter the objects or situations they are afraid of. Active participation in self-help or supportive groups may provide substantial relief to the people with phobias. Stress-management and self-help techniques in combination with psychotherapy can considerably improve the health status of the patients. Medication is also involved in treating phobias, although drugs are primarily prescribed at the initial stage and on a short-term basis. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers help to treat anxiety that may accompany phobic disorders. Thus, various behavioral interventions along with medication are significantly efficient in treating phobias, can considerably improve cognitive and communicative abilities as well as the social interaction of the affected people.
In conclusion, various phobic disorders may restrict social, occupational or living functioning of the phobic people. All phobias are specified by persistent, irrational fear and unexplainable anxiety. Genetic and environmental factors play their role in developing phobic conditions. Phobias affect social interaction and significantly restrict or interfere with daily activity. The studies conditions are recognizable due to physical and psychological impairments that can be reduced and successfully treated with medication and advanced psychotherapeutic techniques and approaches. All treatment modalities designed for phobia management can improve social interaction as well as cognitive and communicative skills.