What is it
Phobias are a common type of anxiety disorder, which are characterised by the experience of extreme anxiety and fear of particular objects or situations. This can persist for 6 months or longer. This fear and anxiety can create significant distress and disruption to normal routines and relationships, as well as socially, occupationally, or any other important areas of functioning. Other characteristics of phobias include the anxiety or fear is almost always triggered by the phobic object or situation, is usually out of proportion to the realistic danger posed by the specific object or situation, and the phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with extreme fear and anxiety. The most common phobias include animals, fear of heights, fear of flying, elevators, fear of diseases, doctors and dentists, storms, blood, injury and injections.
What does it include
Phobias commonly develop in childhood however they can also develop at any age and often as a result of experiences that have been directly traumatic (e.g being attacked by an animal, stuck in an elevator or an unpleasant experience at the dentist), seeing others experience a traumatic event, an unexpected panic attack in the feared situation or through other modes such as watching television. Other factors may also increase vulnerability to phobias and anxiety, including a genetic and temperament component, stress and life events, physical health and style of thinking. Other common symptoms of anxiety associated with phobias can include: Difficulty concentrating, restlessness, avoidance behaviour, rapid heartbeat, trembling or shaking, feeling lightheaded or faint, numbness or tingling sensations, upset stomach or nausea and sweating.
How can a psychologist help
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an evidenced-based and efficacious therapy that can assist people to overcome their phobias through a combination of exposure based exercises, relaxation training and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs associated with the feared object or situation.
Australian Psychological Society Tipsheets for the Public. https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Anxiety
Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/specific-phobias
Bourne, E.J. (2015). The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. New Harbinger Publications. Oakland, CA.
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