Living with fear: Understanding and coping with phobias

What is a phobia?

My little boy's grandma rarely spends time out sharing with her family despite her lovely and big garden.  She lives alone with her husband as their kids flew from home years ago.  They have a big four-level penthouse swimming pool included, and her garden is one of the places which invite to relax and have a chat, not for her of course! 

"She prefers to stay in the kitchen."  During the summer she confines herself to the kitchen with the excuse to feed the family who was visiting to enjoy them.

The reason for her behaviour comes from her phobia to birds or any flying species. She can not feels anything flying over her head because feels dying and need to run away. 

Phobia from -Greek meaning  "flight or terror" and is an extreme, irrational fear of an animal, object, place or situation that most people will not fear (British Psychological Society). So it is normal that people with phobia avoid the encounter or the situation as they feel anxious and extremely feared. Phobias can make people develop panic attack and chronic anxiety.

There are two types of phobias: specific and complex.

Specific phobia involves simple phobia toward a single object, situation or circumstance.  For example, flying, spiders, blood, medical intervention, dentist, snakes or any environment change such as a storm. Most of the times individuals end in a feared situation such as vomiting or shocking witch make them feel worse aggravating their issues.

Complex phobia involves more pressure and extreme anxiety such as Agoraphobia and Social Phobias.

Agoraphobia includes fear of open spaces, travelling in public transports alone, crowds, entering shops etc.  Agoraphobia use to manifests with a panic attack and panic disorder.  The individual feels anxious as the feelings of being unable to escape to a place of safety such as home increase panic.

Social phobia is quite similar to agoraphobias including fearing to speak in public, avoiding social performance or situation, etc.

Phobias develop during childhood and most of them disappear by the age of six years old. Also, people can develop phobia going through stressful periods of their lives as a consequence.

According to research around one or two per cent of men and women develop phobia which is linked to low self-esteem and fear of criticism.  There is no clear reason why people develop anxiety disorder and phobias.  It can develop in late childhood, adolescence, or in early adult life following a frightening and traumatic situation or event.  It is said that phobias can run in families but still unclear whether this is inherited or learned.

Most of the times, people try to cope on their own not seeking help.
People develop what is called "safety behaviour" avoiding drawing attention to themselves, or keeping the escape route open.  Sometimes the "safety behaviour" is to avoid all situation so they feel like they are safe but they actually help to maintain, and even in some cases worsen the phobia over time.

Talking therapy is one of the most effective treatments for phobias as a medication is prescribed in some cases.  Another effective method is self-help.  People can develop self -help strategy such as talk groups, and bibliotherapy.

You can read more about overcoming and treating phobias and disorder in British Psychological Society, Phobias – what, who, why and how to help

British Psychological Society, Phobias – what, who, why and how to help
Audio material: Joseph Wolpe and the treatment of phobias, The Open University, 2017