"Phobia is an intense reaction of fear to a specific thing or a situation. While fear is one of the most basic human responses."
“Research has shown that phobias are common mental conditions with a lifetime prevalence of 7.4%.”Speaking about one’s mental health is associated with some form of stigma. Even within mental health, there are certain conditions which are only spoken about behind closed doors, and sometimes not at all. One of these is phobias.
What are phobias?
Phobia is an intense reaction of fear to a specific thing or a situation. While fear is one of the most basic human responses, when these fears become so severe that they cause enormous anxiety and interfere with one’s daily life, they are called phobias.
The fear is usually out of proportion to the potential danger, but the individual feeling it faces immense anxiety because their fear is so strong. People recognize that their fear may not make sense, but they are yet not able to face it.
They often go to great lengths to avoid the feared object or situation, and shape life lives around it. This interferes with their daily activities and can have huge repercussions. There are a lot of missed opportunities because fear and anxiety is holding the person back.
Some common phobias
● Agoraphobia - A fear of public and open spaces
● Claustrophobia - A fear of confined or crowded spaces
● Social Phobia - A fear of social situations where one may feel judged
● Arachnophobia - A fear of spiders
● Monophobia - A fear of being alone
● Acrophobia - A fear of heights
● Nyctophobia - A fear of nighttime or darkness
There are a number of other phobias, and one can develop a phobia of almost anything. While most phobias develop in childhood, they can also develop later in life.
If phobias are so common, why don’t people talk more about them? There are a lot of myths associated with phobias which prevent people from talking about them. Below are some of these myths:
● Strong people don’t fear anything -This is a common belief, and there is a negative connotation attached to fear. The truth is that all people have fears, despite the front they put on.
● Phobias are not real -There is a common myth that phobias are not real. Phobias
are very real and are medically diagnosable conditions which impact all areas of life.
● Fear and phobias are the same thing - Fear is a common response to a dangerous
situation. However, phobia is an overwhelming fear and aversion of a situation or
object, to the extent that it physically and mentally impacts one’s life.
● Phobia is a sign of weakness -There is no shame in having a phobia and it is not a
sign of weakness. It is a response that the brain has learnt to protect the person.
● There is nothing to be afraid of - Saying this to a person with a phobia makes them feel alone and distant. People with phobias are aware that their fear is exaggerated, but they are yet unable to face it.
It takes strength to be vulnerable and talk about one’s fears. Phobias are highly treatable and there are a number of options available. The hardest part is starting the journey. With the right help and support, it can be surprising how quickly the fear can melt away!
“Only 23% of people seek treatment for phobias. However, of those who seek help, nearly 60-90% of them have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms after completion of psychotherapy”
Written by - Mehek Rohira
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