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 The term phobia (from the Greek phobos - fear, flight) refers to a group of symptoms of irrational and disabling fears caused by certain objects, persons or situations. Phobias belong to anxiety disorders. Along with existing fear comes a strong need to avoid what you are afraid of, which in turn can cause serious problems in a person's functioning. Adults who suffer from a phobia are aware that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, but they are still unable to overcome it.

We distinguish several types of phobias:

Specific or simple phobias - there are a huge number of specific phobias. Specific phobias can sometimes be linked to a traumatic event (such as a dog or snake bite), although many of them arise without any obvious cause. Exposure to a certain object or situation in a person suffering from a phobia causes a feeling of strong anxiety and nervousness or complete avoidance of the situation or object. Depending on the object or situation a person fears, there are many different forms of specific phobias, including:

Animal phobias: fear of dogs, snakes, insects or mice. Animal phobias are among the most common specific phobias;

Situational phobias: include specific situations, such as flying in an airplane, driving a car, crossing a bridge, passing through a tunnel or being in closed spaces;

Phobias of the natural environment: fear of heights, storms or water;

Blood-injection-injury phobias: fear of injury, the sight of blood or invasive medical procedures, such as drawing blood or injections;

Other phobias: fear of falling, loud noises or people in costumes, such as clowns.

Most often, people are not afraid of the object or situation itself, but of some consequence that may arise from meeting the object or being in a certain situation (such as a plane crash or falling from a height, an animal bite, etc.).

Social phobias - represent a combination of excessive self-awareness, fear of public humiliation and fear of negative criticism from other people. People suffering from social phobia often avoid meeting large groups of people, talking in public, going out to restaurants. Public performances cause severe anxiety in them, which, if left untreated, can turn into serious depression and problems with functioning in society.

Agoraphobia - very often occurs in people who have problems with panic disorder. Agoraphobia includes fear of leaving the house, fear of being alone, and of situations from which one cannot quickly escape or seek help (such as riding an elevator or a room full of people). This type of phobia can become so severe that people avoid leaving the house altogether.

The most common signs and symptoms of a phobia include the following:

Persistent, irrational fear of certain objects, objects, activities or situations;

The immediate appearance of anxiety when exposed to the object of fear, even if it is just thinking about a certain object or looking at a picture;

An overwhelming desire to avoid what you fear;

Reduced ability to function in certain situations due to fears.

In addition to the above symptoms, a person who is exposed to the object of their fear is likely to experience panic and its accompanying symptoms, such as sweating, rapid heart rate, a desire to avoid, difficulty breathing, and severe anxiety. In some cases, anxious feelings can appear even when the object of fear is not in front of you, but you are just expecting to meet what you fear. For example, a person who is afraid of dogs will hesitate to go for a walk, because they might encounter a dog along the way. Phobias most often appear in childhood and during adulthood, but they can appear at any age. Phobias are somewhat more common in women than in men. Specific phobias in children are common, but disappear over time, while in adults they last longer than in children and often appear suddenly. Only 20 percent of phobias in adults disappear on their own, without any treatment. Some of the most frequently mentioned and well-known phobias are claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), dentophobia (fear of the dentist), xenophobia (fear of strangers and foreigners). There are a really large number, hundreds of different types of phobias. Many people have not even heard of many of them. Some of the more unusual phobias are dendrophobia (fear of trees), textophobia (fear of certain fabrics), verbophobia (fear of words), etc.

How to get rid of fear?

Recently, some more modern ways of treating phobias are available, and one of the most interesting is treatment with the help of virtual reality.

Most people do not decide to visit a doctor because of a specific phobia. According to some studies, only six percent of people suffering from phobias actually seek medical help. This is partly because their phobias do not cause a complete inability to function, so they find ways to cope with them. Most people only see a doctor when the symptoms of a phobia are very severe and reduce the ability to function normally on a daily basis. Treatment of phobia depends on the severity of the case. Some phobias can be completely cured, while some can never be completely cured. However, even if some form of severe phobia is impossible to completely eradicate, people suffering from this disorder can learn to live with it and function normally in society. In the treatment of phobia, a combination of drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapy is mainly used. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also includes desensitization, which focuses on changing your thinking and the way you think when faced with a stressful situation or object. Put simply, this would mean that if you change the way you think, you will change the way you act. If you change the way you act, you will change the way you think. By desensitization, you learn different ways to change your response to the object of fear. Gradual and repeated exposure to an object or situation that scares you can help you overcome your fear. For example, if you have a fear of flying, your treatment might consist of thinking about flying, then looking at photos of airplanes, going to the airport, sitting on the plane, to the final goal - traveling by plane. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist, you learn ways to deal with your fear and the points of view from which you can look at the object of fear. Learn about the objects of fear and the effects they and certain situations can have on your life. Special emphasis is placed on developing control over your thoughts and feelings. In addition to desensitization and cognitive-behavioral treatment, certain medications are often used that can reduce anxiety and help calm the person down. Medicines used in the treatment of phobias can be divided into three groups:

Beta-adrenergic blockers - work by blocking the stimulating effect of adrenaline. Adrenaline stimulates increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, palpitations and trembling of the voice and limbs.

Antidepressants - reduce anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which act on serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain believed to affect mood, are the most widely used today.

Sedatives/anxiolytics - benzodiazepines reduce the amount of anxiety and thus help relaxation. They should be taken with caution as they can cause addiction. It is best to take them occasionally and for short periods of time.

Specific phobias are mostly treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Social phobias can be treated with antidepressants or beta blockers in combination with behavioral therapy, while agoraphobia, especially when panic disorder is also present, is mostly treated with a combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and behavioral therapy. Recently, some more modern ways of treating phobias are available, and one of the most interesting is treatment with the help of virtual reality. The equipment is still very expensive, so such treatment is not widely accepted, but in a few years it could become one of the most popular and probably the most successful ways to treat phobias. For example, during virtual reality treatment, patients touch realistic spiders in an imaginary, computer-generated environment.Source

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