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Most people experience feelings of anxiety during certain situations, such as exams, job interviews, or other stressful events. These feelings are usually transient and do not necessarily affect the individual’s functionality.

However, when a person experiences unrealistic, overwhelming fear of an object that poses minimal or little danger, which necessitates avoiding specific situations, s/he is probably experiencing phobia. Most phobias develop during the early years of life, childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.

Phobias can take different forms, yet the most common are:

  • Situations (airplanes, enclosed places, driving on highways, high places)
  • Natural occasions (thunderstorms, heights)
  • Animals or insects (spiders, snakes, dogs, cats)
  • Blood
  • Injection or injuries (medical procedures, injections)
  • People (clowns, doctors)
  • Open spaces (agoraphobia)
  • Social phobia

1. What does phobia feel like?

Despite the different forms of phobias, they manifest in similar signs, including:

  • Excessive, persistent fear or anxiety, triggered by a specific object or situation
  • The feelings are irrational and out-of-proportion to the actual threat
  • Avoidance of the phobia triggers, due to sense of shame and embarrassment, and to avoid the feelings of anxiety
  • Physical response, tremors, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea

2. What puts a person at risk of developing phobias?

  • Genetics; the risk of developing phobias is much higher when you have a family member who has phobia
  • Gender; females tend to be more at risk of developing phobias than males
  • Changes in brain chemistry
  • Intensely stressful experiences
  • Learned behavior, having overly anxious parents can affect the way you cope with life stressors

3. What are the treatment modalities at LWHCC for phobias?

  • Psychotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of phobias. Psychotherapy will help you understand your illness and guide you into coping with the symptoms. It aims at modifying your thinking process and provides techniques that help you control your behaviors and emotional responses. One “side effect” of psychotherapy is temporary discomfort during behavior modification sessions. The psychotherapist will help you through this process to keep discomfort to a minimum level, and will provide you with a safe environment.
  • Antidepressants, which are usually prescribed when patients have been suffering with phobias and have been seen to improve the symptoms to help the client focus on the therapy. You may start sleep better and feel less anxious after a few days of starting antidepressants, but your overall improvement will probably not show until 2-4 weeks later.
  • Benzodiazepines, which are used with extreme caution, since they may develop dependency. These medications are strictly for short-term use and acute anxiety relief.
  • Beta- Blockers, which are usually prescribed for use when needed to relieve symptoms such as racing heart rate, sweating, and shaking voice and limbs.

Which treatment modality is better for me?

At LWHCC, we will provide you with free triage service with a professional mental health nurse who will carry on a brief mental health assessment, either over the phone or during a face-to-face interview, and guide you to the appropriate service based on your mental health status and individual needs.

4. What can you do to help yourself?

  • Get enough rest
  • Try to sleep and eat well
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Do not be afraid to seek professional help

5. What can you do to help a close one who has phobia?

Your close person may exhibit excessive and irrational fear of a non-threatening object, and this may take a toll on your relationship, social life, and financial status. However, there are few measures to take in order to help your close one.

  • Do not laugh or underestimate their fears and anxieties. Remember that their anxiety is very real to them and very distressing
  • It is very comforting for an individual with phobia to learn that someone close knows about their anxiety and understands it
  • Do not apply pressure of exposing your close one to their fears, especially when they are not ready yet
  • Encourage treatment and help seeking
  • Be involved in their treatment and learn about phobia

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