A phobia is an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles. However, we can develop phobias of virtually anything. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.
If you have a phobia, you probably realize that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t control your feelings. Just thinking about the feared object or situation may make you anxious. And when you’re actually exposed to the thing you fear, the terror is automatic and overwhelming.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of a phobia can range from mild feelings of apprehension and anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. Typically, the closer you are to the thing you’re afraid of, the greater your fear will be. Your fear will also be higher if getting away is difficult.
Physical signs and symptoms of a phobia
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- A churning stomach
- Hot or cold flashes; tingling sensations
- Racing or pounding heart
- Chest pain or tightness
- Trembling or shaking
Emotional signs and symptoms of a phobia
- Feeling of overwhelming anxiety or panic
- Feeling an intense need to escape
- Feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Feeling like you’re going to die or pass out
- Knowing that you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control your fear
Understanding your phobia is the first step to overcoming it. It’s important to know that phobias are common. Having a phobia doesn’t mean you’re crazy! It also helps to know that phobias are highly treatable. You can overcome your anxiety and fear, no matter how out of control it feels.
Treatment depends on the type of phobia you have:
- Specific phobias usually are treated with exposure therapy.
- Social phobias may be treated with exposure therapy or with antidepressants or beta blockers.
- Agoraphobia, especially when it's accompanied by a panic disorder, is usually treated with exposure therapy or with SSRIs.
- Medications - Medications can help control the anxiety and panic from thinking about or being exposed to the object or situation you fear.