Simple Phobia is a common anxiety disorder and almost 10% of a population has one or more specific objects or situations that elicit fear= a sudden strong reaction in the body. This reaction is the due to the fight/flight reflex of the limbic system (more info about the fight/flight reflex here.
The specific objects that trigger the fight/flight reflex are often
- animals like spiders, snakes, birds, dogs, mice
- thunder, heights, darkness
- airplanes, elevators, enclosed spaces
- public toilets
- the sight of blood or syringes, dentists, hospitals
Research in Simple phobia, find that many of these triggers might be genetically coded in our brains and are old survival instincts.
Children and adults with phobias will often find ways and strategies to avoid the situations. Many people live well, without major consequences of the avoidance. Others live with fear and hide the reason why they avoid.
Adults may suffer, if they have a job with business travels and have fear of flying.
Fear of enclosed spaces can also be very troublesome, because many jobs (e.g.in healthcare), makes it necessary to be able to use elevators with the patients. Men can find it especially embarrassing and a serious attack on the self-esteem, if they feel anxiety and fear situations, which they rationally know are harmless!
Phobias that prevent people from seeking medical help or going to the dentist can be damaging to health.
The severity of the disorder is reflected in the extent to which restrictions have pre-vented one from living a more fulfilling life and whether family-life is influenced.
Specific phobias have usually been present since childhood. If strong avoidance is present, the anxiety of being exposed to the trigger stays strong and often life-long. If one has gradually tried to habituate oneself to the feared object, then the reac-tion in the body will have become less strong.
The best documented treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. It consists of education about the feared object, finding realistic thoughts to focus on and at the same time gradually expose oneself to the phobic situation. 90% will improve after a few hours with this kind of treatment.
PanicRelief is based on cognitive behavioral methods and can guide you, if you want to become less anxious and try to stop avoiding your specific triggers.
You can desensitize your hyperactive fight/flight reflex by relaxing and breathing calmly while you try to expose yourself just a little at a time. You can find useful info in PanicRelief: ’What happens if I flee from panic?’ and ’How can family and friends help me?’.
If your avoidance is too strong, a few sessions with a cognitive behavioral therapist might help you start.