I would like to look at what Specific phobia's are and what it means to you if you are suffering with a real phobia..
Some people suffer with real fears that are over powering and have a huge impact on their ability to lead a normal functioning life. Why people can build such a fear which is irrational to others and even irrational to them is not really known.
The difference between a fear and a Phobia is simple. A fear is real but a phobia fear that is out of proportion, debilitating and will affect your quality of life, a phobia seems uncontrollable as in you almost don't seem to have control of your symptoms they just happen and you feel completely out of control, whereas a fear is very real but may just cause you to avoid the object of your fears and not other aspects of your life. For example someone with a fear of dogs may become nervous when they come into contact with a dog, but otherwise function normally, where as someone who has developed a Phobia of Dogs may avoid dogs altogether, parks where they may see a dog or even not be able to read books incase they see a photo of a dog or in extreme cases become housebound as leaving the house may mean they will see a dog. The person with a phobia has their daily function disrupted and may not even be able to go to work.
The phobia seems in control of you rather than you of it. That is why people see so helpless.
The fear level with a Phobia is massive and debilitating but irrational and not real or in proportion. People suffering from a phobia will recognise this deep down, however they will feel powerless against the fearful thoughts and anticipation anxiety they are having, they will do anything to avoid the fear and the feelings that they are having at all costs..
People who suffer from Phobia's often feel ashamed and embarrassed because of their fear, they isolate themselves and feel uncomfortable with others as they do not want others to notice the extent of the fear they are feeling.
Phobia's are the opposite of horror movies as when a movie scares you, you feel fear but deep down you know that you are safe and feel safe. When a phobia frightens you, you may known that your fear is irrational but deep down you still feel very unsafe.
Remember when dealing with a phobia the fear you are feeling is but the actual danger you are in is false.
Understanding what is happening to you whilst suffering a phobia and working to overcome your issue is a very brave thing to do.It is not easy, but learning to stand back from the fear and understand how your body is working to keep it real is very key to successful recovery.
Fear and actual danger are two very different things. It is very key when beginning your recovery to understand the difference between the two.The level of fear you feel whilst suffering a phobia is comparable to jumping off a tall building, but the level of actual danger you are in is just not there. Recognising this is very important.
Lets look at the type of Phobia's there are:
Well interestingly there are actually very few types of Phobia. Most Phobias fit into 6 main categories.
- Fear of insects or animals - such as spiders, snakes, birds, dogs etc
- Fear of being taken away from a safe place - This could mean driving, leaving the house, travelling by bus, train, airplane, car or having to stay away from home.
- Fear of being trapped and confined - This phobia often goes together with the phobia above. examples include, meetings, cinemas, Lifts, showers, motorways or dual carriageways.
- Social Fears - Meeting new people, socialising, public speaking, eating in front of others or performing in any way in front of others.
- Fears of Natural Phenomena - Thunder and lightening, storms, water, heights, snow, the sky, darkness or outer space.
- Fears of Health and Illness- Vomiting, hospitals, needles, seeing blood or worry of serious illness, assessment or operation.
I want to now look at how phobia's work to set in and cause your suffering.
In my experience fear has a fairly short life span and will eventually fizzle out on it's own. When it stays for the duration and doesn't settle down, that is only because there are now habits in place keeping your fear alive. The crippling part of a phobia, believe it or not is not the fear, its the safety behaviours or steps that we are putting in place ourselves as a natural instinct to protect ourselves from the fear that we are feeling. See more about Safety behaviours here- safety behaviours.
It is very important to understand the fear cycle and how it works to keep you stuck. By trying to control our fear and the efforts we put into this often force us to give up or avoid ordinary activities that we might otherwise enjoy, they also fail to remove the fear from our lives. These steps may calm our fear feelings in the short term but in the long term it is self defeating as our long term fear goes up.
To recover we must do the opposite. Feel fear in the short term to allow the long term fear to diminish.
Another really interesting point to note with phobia's, is that your level of "life restriction" usually depends on what it is you fear or where you live.
For example, if your phobia is of snakes but you live in the United Kingdom, then the chances are your phobia won't really interrupt too much with your daily life in general, because the chance of you bumping into a snake while in the United Kingdom are fairly slim.
However, phobia's which involve such things as spiders, birds, dogs etc, are much more difficult to avoid where ever you live and would serve to have a much bigger impact on your life.
While these avoidance may temporarily stop you from feeling the fear felt with a phobic response, they strengthen the fear over time, and so unfortunately the more we avoid the more phobic we become.
Remember Anxiety's other name is "Avoidance" By avoiding anything you only strengthen the problem, the cycle and keep yourself stuck.
This is why when you know you are suffering from a phobia, its really important to have an awareness of the cycle of fear and knowledge of how avoidance makes the problem bigger.
The good news is that Phobia's are actually very treatable problems and usually can be successfully treated without long term therapy or medication. The most effective treatment from phobia's tends to be exposure therapy. You can recover from your phobia and regain your quality of life. Understanding how phobia's manifest and work within you along with the right help or approach to overcoming your phobia can make a huge difference to your recovery and maintaining your recovery.
With gradual exposure, you can learn to spend time with the object of your fear and this will retrain your brain to learn to accept it . When you learn what your brain is doing when activating your fear response, you begin to understand what it takes to reverse this process and once you begin to apply this method, exposure is really really effective.
It doesn't matter how bad you feel you are, you can recover from these feelings and your phobia. It is possible so please do not loose your hope. Remember how the Amygdala works, if you continue to reinforce your avoidance of your fears then they will continue to grow and impact your life.
A Phobia does not restrict your life as the fear can never harm you and the danger is not real, However severe it is.You restrict your life by making the choices or acting in a way that serves to feed your fear and make it bigger.
Recovery is about facing the fear and teaching yourself that the fear you are feeling is false. It can be done and you can regain your quality of life.