We all experience or know someone who experiences a profound fear, such as a fear of spiders, snakes or heights. This is because holding fears towards certain objects or situations is extremely common. However, in some cases, the fear reaction is so severe, and the feared stimulus is commonly encountered that the fear becomes a major burden, which interferes with our ability to function day-to-day.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that may present as persistent fear and irrational avoidance of an object or situation. Common phobias include claustrophobia, blood or injection phobias, animal and insect phobias, height phobias, flying phobias, storm phobias, fear of death; choking and vomiting phobias, dental phobia and fear of disease. It is important to seek help if a phobia is disrupting your everyday life, or causing significant distress.
So how do you know when your worries or fears have crossed the line and are starting to affect your quality of life? There are a number of indicators which could suggest that you are experiencing a phobia, including:
- Complete avoidance of a specific object, animal, environment or situation at all costs
- If you are unable to avoid the feared stimulus, it is endured with a great amount of stress and anxiety
- Experiencing physical sensations when coming into contact or thinking about the feared stimulus, including heart palpitations, light headedness, sweating, dizziness, or shaking
- The feared stimulus is preventing you from being able to do certain things, and therefore could be impacting on your relationships, your work or your happiness
A phobia can occur towards anything, and will uniquely effect each person in a different way. Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult to identify. You may have experienced some of the above features, but not know specifically what the cause of them are. This could indicate a phobia towards an everyday behaviour such as socialising or leaving the house, or it could even indicate a more general experience of anxiety.
If you have a phobia which you know has been impacting on your life for a long time, or if you feel nervous and anxious without knowing why, a VCPS practitioner can help you work through this. There are a number of practitioners who specialise in phobias and anxiety, and they can assist by:
- Providing an assessment to find out whether you are experiencing a phobia, what specific factors trigger your fear or anxiety, and the severity of this
- Identifying the thoughts or behaviours that are contributing to the fear, and changing these into more helpful and positive ones
- Providing relaxation strategies to use when in contact with the feared stimulus
- Helping you overcome the phobia by gradually exposing you to the feared stimulus using practice both in and out of the session, at a pace that you feel comfortable with