What is phobia?

Doctor Zeerak Attari

Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder where a person fears a thing, place, situation, sense or an animal to the extent that it affects the individual’s life. In some cases, this can lead to becoming mentally impaired.

A phobia begins when a person unnecessarily senses extreme danger in a certain situation whereas the circumstances do not present any danger. If a phobia takes a severe form, those who suffer from this set a daily routine in a manner so that they do not have to face the thing that causes them to feel anxious. As a result, their daily routine becomes restricted, which causes great mental distress for the affected individual.

Types of phobias

There are countless things that people have a phobia of. However, there are mainly two types of phobias:

1.   Specific or simple phobias

2.   Complex phobias.

1. Specific or simple phobias

In this type of phobia, the affected person fears a specific thing. This type of phobia generally manifests in childhood or adolescence, and as people age, their phobia sometimes begins to decrease.

Some examples of specific phobias include being afraid of animals like dogs, cats, snakes, spiders or mice; fear of things related to the environment, such as heights, deep water or germs; fear of certain situations, such as visiting the doctor or traveling on an airplane; fear of things associated with the body, such as blood, vomit and being injected.

2. Complex phobias

This type of phobia is more severe. From one aspect, it incapacitates the affected person, as it makes it impossible for the person to live a normal life. Complex phobias usually begin at a young age and are associated with a deep fear, which the affected person experienced in a specific situation.

Complex phobias have two main types

1.   Agoraphobia: In this type, the person affected usually has a fear of open spaces, public places, being alone and travelling on public transport. The person normally thinks that if something happens, how will I save my life and flee from here. This thought becomes so dominant that the individual begins to feel severe anxiety, and in some instances, it takes the form of panic attacks, where the person feels like they will die that very moment. Therefore, such people usually avoid going to places that make their life difficult.

2.   Social phobia: Individuals affected by this type of phobia have a fear of facing other people. They have an intense fear of conversing with others or speaking in public. Those affected think that they will make a mistake which will lead to being humiliated and people making fun of them. Some people suffering social phobia are so severely affected that they stop meeting people all together, which majorly impacts their life.

Signs of phobia and its diagnosis

Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It could be the case that the affected person does not display any signs of anxiety in normal circumstances. However, when they think about or come across the thing that they have a phobia of, the following symptoms can manifest: dizziness, staggering, nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, trembling and stomach issues.

Diagnosing a phobia is not difficult. Those affected are aware that they have an issue related to fear. However, sometimes they do not refer to a psychiatrist. Instead, they distance themselves from the things that are associated with the phobia, which makes their life even more difficult. Remember, avoiding things associated with the phobia will only increase your phobia. If you suffer from any type of phobia, then contact a psychiatrist or your family doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment for phobias

The positive news is that there is full treatment available for almost every type of phobia. It is possible to treat specific or simple phobia through graded exposure. This is where the affected person is exposed to a state of lesser fear to a state of greater fear, leading to the fear completely subsiding. This type of treatment is known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. In general, the affected person undertakes this form of therapy with a psychotherapist, but in some cases, the person can treat themselves with their own help. There are various self-help programmes available for this, but those affected should not begin treatment without consulting a doctor first.

Treating complex phobias takes more time. This is usually done through the help of counselling, psychotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Generally, medicines are not used to treat phobias. However, if the anxiety is extremely severe in some individuals, the doctor will prescribe some medication for a certain period to reduce anxiety.

May Allah Almighty protect us from every type of fear and danger and grant us the ability to convey matters of knowledge to others.

اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن  صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم




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