Phobias

 

 

 

What Is It?

Phobias

A phobia is an intense fear of something that really doesn’t pose a real or immediate danger. Common phobias include a fear of spiders (arachnophobia), snakes, thunderstorms, blood and airplanes. The fear far exceeds the actual danger and people who struggle with this type of anxiety often feel embarrassed, knowing that their fear is excessive.

Phobias generally bring about ‘disaster thinking’, predicting that the worst. Avoidance is the most common way of dealing with a phobia. However, avoidance is a bad idea as it actually maintains the phobia, it feeds the phobia. The phobia doesn’t go away. At times the phobia may have no effect on your life. Having a fear of sharks is really not going to harm you if you live nowhere near the sea. Sometimes the phobia is small and manageable, not really affecting your day-to- day living.

Phobias generally bring about ‘disaster thinking’, predicting that the worst. Avoidance is the most common way of dealing with a phobia. However, avoidance is a bad idea as it actually maintains the phobia, it feeds the phobia. The phobia doesn’t go away. At times the phobia may have no effect on your life. Having a fear of sharks is really not going to harm you if you live nowhere near the sea. Sometimes the phobia is small and manageable, not really affecting your day-to- day living.

On the other hand, a phobia can badly affect your life. A phobia of dogs could mean that you would struggle to ever go to someone’s house, walk in the park or to visit relatives.

A fear of flying could trap you and mean you can’t go on holidays abroad, this may not only impact you but also those that you love and hold dear.

At the more extreme end of agoraphobia a person may not be able to leave the house and may live in fear every day.

Symptoms

AN EXCESSIVE, NON-STOP FEAR OF A SPECIFIC SITUATION OR EVENT

doing all you can to avoid the situation or object that causes you fear

INABILITY TO CONTROL YOUR FEARS, EVEN WHEN LOGIC TELLS YOU THEY’RE IRRATIONAL

NORMAL DAILY ROUTINE TO BE DISRUPTED BECAUSE OF YOUR FEARS

AN IMMEDIATE FEELING OF TERROR WHEN FACING THE SUBJECT OF YOUR PHOBIA

for some people just the thought of the object they fear, can cause stress.

Personal Stories

“At the height of my fear of flying, I couldn’t even look at a plane in the sky above me without working myself up into a panic about what it must be like to be on it. By age 19 I had stopped flying altogether and would not do so again for about 3 years. Seeing planes overhead would make me extremely anxious. Even now (and my fear has eased somewhat in recent years and after many courses, books and therapy sessions), the moment before I book a flight is a gamble as to whether or not I will press the ‘confirm’ button. Sleepless nights and dreams of plane crashes. The thoughts that go through my head are usually about what it would feel like to die. I worry extensively about the plane crashing into water and about being trapped in it, water creeping in, and then drowning (I think drowning or any kind of any asphyxiation/suffocation is my pick for worst way to go). I think about the plane exploding. My intestines would go nuts – I’d be rushing to the loo (and it would be 50/50 on whether I’d be sitting down when I got there or leaning over it to vomit). My whole body would be hyper tense the night before. I wouldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t even have a drink to loosen up. I couldn’t keep anything down – either before or during the flight.”

Anonymous

“On the flight, my stomach would feel like someone had wrung it out like a wet mop, but that it had never unravelled again; just constantly squeezed, as if it alone were keeping the plane in the air, simply by holding itself as tight as possible. My heart would beat so fast and strong that it almost hurt. It would beat from my throat. My teeth would be clenched the whole time. My breathing would be fast and I would sometimes feel like I couldn’t get enough air when I took a deep breath so I would have to yawn and sometimes even that wouldn’t work so I’d feel like I was suffocating. I think it’s called ‘air hunger’. I would cry sometimes and shake a lot. If any noises, bumps or turbulence happened, it would set what felt like an electric shock, a jolt of electricity, from my big toe straight to my heart. Physical terror. “

Anonymous

“For as long as I can remember I've been cautious of swallowing food and over chewed it. I've had periods where its been very difficult to swallow but have been able to force it. It's especially difficult eating in public because I become so much more conscious about it as I worry about gagging and embarrassing myself (this has happened so many times!) For the past few months its felt like it was getting more and more difficult for me to eat but I was always able to eat on my own at home. 3 weeks ago I gagged on some food and had a panic attack and I've been unable to swallow any food since. It got so bad I was getting down 1 bite a day and a little bit of water, I was really dehydrated and ended up in a&e. It was so difficult to swallow my own saliva it got so thick. “

Anonymous

Getting Help

PHOBIAS LIKE OTHER ANXIETY-BASED ISSUES COME FROM SOMETHING NOT THREATENING TO LIFE AND LIMB BEING PERCEIVED AS A HUGE THREAT. THIS IS WHAT TRIGGERS THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM AND OUR FIGHT OR FLIGHT SO VIOLENTLY.

PSYCHOEDUCATION AROUND PHOBIAS AS WELL AS UNDERSTANDING THE UNDERLYING TRIGGERS THAT START THEM ARE CRUCIAL STEPS IN TERMS OF FIGHTING OFF THESE DEBILITATING AND DISORIENTATING EXPERIENCES. YOUR GOOD THERAPIST WILL BE ABLE TO HELP YOU FIGHT THESE ATTACKS.

KNOWING HOW YOUR OWN PHOBIAS FEEL, AS WELL AS WORKING WITH SOMEONE TRAINED IN WORKING WITH EXPOSING YOU TO THE GENTLE STIMULUS OF ONE WILL HELP YOU GREATLY TO NORMALIZE THE FEARED STIMULUS. PHOBIAS ARE THINGS THAT CAN BECOME LESS SEVERE OVER TIME.

Getting Help

Anxiety Ireland has fully trained counsellors nationwide on standby to assist you in taking back control of these problems. For more information or to arrange a free telephone consultation with one of our team please see our get help section.

Success Stories

“What I learned from my personal experience with phobia is I’d made a mountain out of a molehill. I’d allowed a hazy and traumatic recollection color my view well into adulthood, and in the process, managed to sabotage my dental health. Knowing I was putting myself at risk and begrudging the irrationality of my phobia only made me want to avoid the issue more.”

Anonymous

“Today I can get on a plane, but I still won’t get on a flight longer than 5 hours. I don’t know why that’s my cut off, but it is. Unfortunately, for me, I am an adventurer with a desire to see all the nooks and crannies of the world, trapped in the body of a woman who is afraid of flying. It’s upsetting, it’s frustrating and I hate myself for it most of the time. I was born to travel but there’s a 5 hour flight force field around me. It’s sort of like being in prison but knowing I have the key and can leave any time I like, then also having to watch everyone else walk out the gate while I’m still stuck here. I regret all of the times I haven’t booked a flight because of a niggling fear. My life is limited by my fear and that makes me quite sad."

Anonymous

“Even now I still struggle a bit with eating in front of strangers or somewhere I'm not comfortable and I still avoid hard to swallow food like steak or thick bread. I now keep in mind that while I am eating carefully I am very unlikely to choke. A small chewed up mouthful is not going to choke you, even if it went down the wrong way you would just cough it back up. It's still difficult to relax, but now I don't put myself under any pressure by trying to eat huge meals or dry foods. I sometimes used to find that reading or watching tv while eating would take my mind off the food and allow the swallowing reflex to become more natural again.”

Anonymous