Phobia is defined as an intense and irrational fear of a situation or an object that in reality poses little risk. A phobia is different from anxiety and can be long lasting, as well as cause severe physical and emotional reactions that can affect one’s ability to function normally. There are many types of phobias--some people hate closed spaces, others fear certain animals, some are afraid to get in the elevator and so on. In general, phobia does not need treatment if it does not affect your daily life.
The symptoms of phobia can be intense and range from uncontrolled anxiety, a feeling that one must do something to get away from the situation, inability to think rationally, sweating, fast heart beat, rapid breathing and a feeling of severe panic. Phobias in children may present as excess clinging, crying or severe behavior alterations.
Like most things in psychiatry, the cause of phobias is not known but the disorder does tend to run in families. Phobias generally present in the 20s and 30s but may start earlier. Women tend to be more affected than men, but this is thought to be because men do not complain or seek help. Many men tend to hide the problem so that they are not seen as weaklings. In some cases, phobias may be precipitated by a traumatic event like an animal attack or a frightening plane ride.
Phobias may appear trivial but can be distressing to the individual. Phobias lead to social isolation, withdrawal from society, depression and alcohol/substance abuse.
Once the phobia is diagnosed, there are treatments for this mental disorder. In most cases, a combination of medication and behavior therapy can help reduce the phobia. In the majority of cases, a phobia will never get better if it is left alone. There is no cure for phobia but the therapies can help reduce the fear and anxiety. The behavior therapies can help you manage your reactions to the phobic-causing situation. The types of medications used to treat phobia range from beta-blockers to reduce the symptoms of fast heart rate and sweating, anti-depressants and sedatives. Behavior therapy can help one adjust to the phobia.