What are phobias and how do we treat them?
What are phobias?
Each person may be worried or even frightened about certain objects, situations or events. But in the case of some people the reactions to certain fears are extremely strong, even irrational sometimes and most often involuntary. These people end up avoiding those places or situations that generate such fears that although they make no sense, it seems that they cannot be stopped. In some cases caused by such fears, there are people who may even suffer from panic attacks, fainting, but even heart attacks or loss of control until death. Thus, phobias are defined as those fears that apparently cannot be controlled.
According to specialists, there are three types of phobias, namely agoraphobia, social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder) and specific phobias. In the case of specific phobias, the excessive and unjustified fear is due to a certain object, place or a certain situation.
Such a specific phobia can be generated by various animals or insects, by heights, flying, driving a car, weather phenomena such as thunder and lightning, medical or dental procedures, but even public transport or boarding an elevator.
People who suffer from a phobia may be aware that fear is irrational, but even this thought can generate extreme anxiety. The most common phobias are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of large and / or crowded spaces), cynophobia (fear of dogs), astrafobia (fear of thunder and storm), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), misophobia (fear of germs and bacteria), aerophobia (fear of flying) and tripophobia (fear of holes).
Causes of phobias
Although phobia has been studied for a long time, the causes of phobias remain unknown. In most cases the phobias are due to events or situations such as a dog bite, the appearance of a panic attack in the elevator or on the plane, participation in an event in which another person suffered injuries or even died, present with another person who suffers from a panic attack or learning about situations that lead to bad events (for example a plane crash).
Most often phobias start in childhood or adolescence. Situation phobias most often begin in adulthood. Scientists believe that phobias are a result of genetic trends, brain chemistry and other biological, psychological and environmental factors.
Symptoms and diagnosis of phobias
The main symptom of a phobia is an excessive fear, much stronger than in the case of other people in a similar situation or regarding a certain object. In children, a symptom may be crying or a fit of anger. In adults, the intensity of fear and worry is the main symptom. The main symptom in the case of phobias is psychological, and people with phobias have fears about losing control, panic, physical stress or fainting. Starting with the psychological symptom, phobias can also generate physical symptoms such as faster heartbeat or difficult breathing.
In order to diagnose phobia, a specialist doctor or psychotherapist asks questions about the symptoms and the age of these symptoms. To establish the diagnosis, a physical examination is performed, but questions are also asked about the medical history and the medication that the patient uses so that the psychotherapist can identify any other problems.
Treatment of phobias
Various psychotherapeutic methods are used to treat phobias, and one of the most innovative such methods is therapy by exposing the object that causes phobias in Virtual Reality under the guidance of a psychotherapist.