Why do we need fear? Fear is the body’s natural and desired response to a threat. It allows the body to properly mobilize itself and react to an undesirable situation. It allows you to take care of your life, health and safety. However, what if fear appears in objectively safe situations or in response to safe objects and interferes with normal functioning?
What are specific phobias?
Specific phobia manifests itself in the feeling of strong fear caused by a specific object or situation. When a person comes into contact with the object of a phobia, he or she begins to feel fear and sometimes suffers a panic attack. What is important is that this fear has no cause related to a real threat. Anxiety may also be caused by the very thought or idea of contact with an anxiety-producing factor. A person suffering from this disorder takes all possible steps to avoid contact with the object that causes fear. This can lead to social isolation and withdrawal, but above all, it causes enormous mental suffering and requires specialized treatment. A good example would be a person with claustrophobia who prefers to climb many flights of stairs rather than use the elevator.
What are the phobias characterized by?
Mainly avoidance. It results from the fact that feeling fear itself is very unpleasant, but such a person also overestimates the probability of some terrible events occurring.
People suffering from phobias, when faced with a situation that generates fear, begin to feel fear of varying degrees of intensity, from slight nervousness to the desire to flee or fight. Manifestations of phobia become stronger each time the fearful situation is avoided. The phobia also persists because it allows the person suffering from it to draw attention to themselves and arouse sympathy from others.
Prevalence of phobias
Approximately 12% of people suffer from specific phobias during their lives. Differences between women and men vary depending on the type of phobia. Nevertheless, women suffer from phobias more often than men. 90-95% of animal phobias affect women. The age at which the first symptoms appear varies depending on the type of phobia. The phobia of punctures, injections or the dentist most often occurs in childhood, while the phobia of driving a car usually appears in adolescence and early adulthood.
Subtypes of specific phobia according to DSM-5
- Phobia of animals such as snakes, spiders, dogs, insects, birds.
- Environmental phobia, i.e. fear of storms, heights, water.
- Blood-injection-wound phobia, i.e. fear of seeing blood or being injured, receiving an injection, seeing a person in a wheelchair.
- Situation phobia – public transport, elevators, bridges, tunnels, flying, closed spaces.
- Other anxiety-provoking situations include choking, vomiting, and space phobia – such as the fear of falling when there is no wall nearby.
Phobia about getting hurt and getting shot
This is an interesting phobia because people affected by it experience a feeling of great disgust when they resist the eyes of fear. So we have a disgust component present here. There are also unique physiological reactions to the sight of blood or a wound. Instead of a steady increase in blood pressure, after the initial spike, blood pressure and heart rate drop rapidly. Fainting, nausea and dizziness are also often present, which are absent in other specific phobias. This type of phobia is largely hereditary.
Treatment of phobia
The best method of treating specific phobias is exposure therapy. This is a giveaway of behavioral therapy. It involves controlled exposure to a stimulus or situation that causes anxiety. Participatory modeling is particularly useful here, in which the therapist is the first to experience anxiety-producing factors and shows the patient how to behave in such a situation. It is worth combining therapy with pharmacotherapy.
Butcher J., Hooley J., Mineka S. (2017). Psychologia zaburzeń. Sopot: GWP.
Author: Anna Połeć