The word ‘phobia’ comes from the Greek word for fear or dread, and is the term used to describe an intense and persistent fear that some people experience when faced with certain situations or objects. People with phobias have a compelling need to flee and avoid the phobic object or situation. This fear is irrational and not based on sound judgement. The person suffering from a phobia may know there is no real danger in a situation but the fear and anxiety will feel very real.
We all experience fear of certain things or situations to a degree, but fear in those who suffer from a phobia can be acute and can cause far-reaching complications that impede life functioning. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder.
Some examples of phobias that clients bring to therapy include agoraphobia (fear of public places or fear of leaving a safe place), social phobia (fear of people), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) and many, many others. Some people fear needles while some may have an overwhelming fear of public transport (a fear of flying or a fear of travelling on underground trains). Some people fear speaking in public while others might fear hospitals or dentists.
There are many approaches a therapist might use to help a client suffering from this kind of anxiety.
A popular method used in dealing with phobias is cognitive behavioural therapy which would explore the underlying causes of the problem and examine the thoughts and feelings that contribute to the fear. The client and therapist might identify what triggers feelings of fear or dread and look at the body’s reaction to these triggers. Through gaining this insight, cognitive behavioural therapy would then seek to change the thoughts and behaviours that are associated with the phobia. This type of therapy is about changing how a person thinks and feels about the phobic object or situation.
In the UK, it’s estimated that 10 million people have phobias. Phobias can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or social background. Some phobias originate in childhood while others develop later in life. Someitmes there is an obvious explanation for a phobia, sometimes there is not.
Almost all phobias can be successfully treated and treatment of phobias is done through counselling and psychotherapy. Medication is not commonly used to treat phobias.