According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 6 million suffer from specific phobias. A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder that is based on a certain fear. These fears vary greatly from person to person and usually stem from experiences in childhood. Specific phobias go beyond being simply adverse to a certain object or situation and can actually cause panic attacks.
Specific phobias can be difficult to diagnose in comparison to rational fears. There are six main criteria points that doctors use to diagnose specific phobias. First, the fear must be persistent and unfading. In some people, this fear may also be felt even if the object is not around or the situation is not happening, simple because it might be around or happen in the future. The second criteria that must be met for diagnosis is acute anxiety, sometimes even leading to a panic attack, when the object is around or the person is in the situations. Thirdly, the fear itself is irrational and excessive, because there is no immediate danger. Next, a person will start to avoid the object or situation, even if this disrupts daily life. Another criteria is that it disrupts life to the point where it interferes with normal daily functioning and a considerable amount of time is spent worrying about the phobia. Lastly, these symptoms are not attributed to another anxiety condition or disorder.
Fears vary widely, but fall into five categories: animals, natural environments, blood and injury, situational, and other. In some cases, treatment is not necessary. For example, if you have a fear of air planes, you can simply choose not to fly during your life. However, once the phobia begins to disrupt your functioning on a daily basis, you should see your doctor for treatment. Behaviour therapy is usually the best treatment you can get for a specific phobia. With this process, the person is exposed to the object or situation, slowly at first, and with pictures or virtualisation. Virtual reality is also great for helping others to overcome specific phobias.
It is simply important to seek help if a specific phobia is ruining your life. You can ask your doctor for tips to help you overcome a panic attack or ways in which to avoid objects or situations in healthy ways. While you may never be “cured” from your specific phobia, it is totally possible to let it go enough to be able to live your life normally on a day-to-day basis.
Panic disorders are a serious health problem and are very different from other types of anxiety. Panic attacks are sudden, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling. If you have panic disorder, you may feel suddenly terrified for no reason. During a panic attack, you also have scary physical feelings like a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, or dizziness. Some people believe they are having a heart attack.
Panic attacks can happen at any time and any place without warning. Many people with panic disorders develop intense anxiety between episodes. It is not unusual for a person with panic disorder to develop phobias about places or situations where panic attacks have occurred, such as in supermarkets or other everyday situations.
Panic attacks often begin when people are young adults, around 18 to 24 years old. Sometimes they start when a person is under a lot of stress, for example after the death of a loved one or after having a baby. Anyone can have panic disorder, but more women than men have the illness. It can also be a hereditary disorder.
Speaking to a specially trained doctor or counsellor who can teach you ways to cope with your panic attacks can help many people who struggle with panic disorder. Therapy will help you feel less afraid and anxious. Thanks to research, there are a variety of treatments available, including several effective medications, and also specific forms of psychotherapy. Often, a combination of psychotherapy and medications produces good results.
It is extremely important for a person suffering from panic disorder to understand that help is available. Tragically, many people with panic disorder do not seek or receive treatment. The physical toll this takes adds to the problem.