There’s fear, and then there’s irrational fear. Phobias aren’t a question of whether or not you feel squeamish when looking at a large picture of a tarantula – they’re far, far more severe. The exact cause of a phobia isn’t pinpointed by science – they can develop as a consequence of severe trauma, but aren’t always the result of trauma. It does help to understand how fear works in general when tackling the topic of phobias.
Like pain, stress, and hangovers, fear is a negative feeling that ultimately is designed to benefit us and our long-term survival. When you fear something, it’s typically for a good reason – and it gives you an incentive to stay away from that certain something, be it a fire, or slightly-frozen lake, or a crowd of drunken teenagers.
In theory, epigenetics plays a factor in fear – such as the natural aversion to spiders, snakes, scorpions, big cats and other dangerous venomous or powerful predators – through trauma. This fear can usually be trained out of a person’s mind with time, but typically exists from a relatively young age in most people (but not all, depending on the experiences of people’s ancestors).
Phobias are separate from that, however, in that they’re a strictly exaggerated form of fear – and they’re much, much harder to deal with. Phobias exist for nearly any imaginable uncomfortable situation: from air travel and crowds to tight spaces and excessive hair. So what makes a phobia different from a fear? Phobias generally leave you completely incapable of completing certain tasks or are incredibly disruptive to your daily life. This doesn’t just mean not being able to pee because there’s a spider in the bathroom – it means not deciding to pee because of the minute chance that a spider might be in the bathroom, to the point where you worry about it on the way to work, while you’re eating, or elsewhere.
In the Greek, an agora was an open space for public assembly – much like a plaza, or more simply, a gathering place. The Agora, in particular, was a spot in ancient Athens highlighted by its bustling industry and civic activities.
From there, agoraphobia is the fear of just that – anywhere with big crowds in open spaces. But it’s not necessarily limited to public gatherings – bars, lines, buses and various other places where strangers might stand together waiting for something to happen can be triggering to a person with serious agoraphobia. The defining factor? Being trapped.
The exact mechanism for its origin isn’t known or easily explained, but agoraphobia can be distinguished from regular fear or antisocial behavior by a distinct sense of dread and frequent panic attacks when in a public space around other people.
It’s difficult to treat, but can be tackled through a patient and very specialized approach. Every case is unique, and different patients exhibit different reactions and specific fears, but both talk therapy and anti-anxiety medication can help alleviate the fear long enough to make real progress in desensitizing someone to it.
Brainspotting and eye movement desensitization can also help under certain circumstances. There is, sadly, no clear treatment plan – instead, we use our judgment and meticulous diagnostic testing to figure out how to help you cope with your phobia.
Claustrophobia is a well-known fear, defined as the fear of enclosed spaces. You don’t have to be stuck in a coffin to start getting a panic attack – claustrophobia can be triggered by a number of different situations, including a windowless room, an elevator, or even a highway during rush hour.
Given how modern life and urban development means people are increasingly forced to live in closer proximity to each other in increasingly smaller spaces, being claustrophobic can be very, very difficult to live with. Like most phobias, claustrophobia is recognized by an irrational worry of being in tight spaces, followed by hyperventilation, panic attacks and severe terror or distress when in a tight or crowded environment.
If you’re feeling claustrophobic at times, then know that there is hope for you to learn to cope and live normally within any environment. In some cases, claustrophobia goes away on its own and may be a temporary phobia as a result of a recent trauma – being in a car accident, or living with a cast, for example – but that doesn’t mean you should just sit tight and wait for it to eventually blow over. There are many modern and non-invasive treatment options that can help phobic individuals overcome their irrational fear.
Common treatments for claustrophobia include talk therapy of various kinds, including rational emotive behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Exposure therapy can also aid in tackling and eliminating a phobia. It can be scary at first, we know – but with each session, that fear will ultimately dwindle.
Acrophobia might sound like an incredibly foreign term, but it’s actually one of the most common types of phobia in existence: the fear of heights.
It’s natural to fear heights. When you’re three of four stories up and lean over a window, that feeling of your heartbeat in your throat, while your stomach is ready to perform complex acrobatics is normal. After all, we’re relatively intelligent creatures – and we know without having to test the theory that if we jump from a building, we won’t magically grow wings to save us from death.
But acrophobia is distinctly different from your average fear of heights. Acrophobia can be triggered at virtually any height – in severe cases, simply driving on a bridge can cause a reaction, and even a panic attack. Similarly, going to a meeting on a high floor (without even getting close to the building’s windows) can cause someone with severe acrophobia to be in distress.
Symptoms of acrophobia include negative invasive thoughts, such as the thought of jumping off a ledge, imagining getting pushed, or fearing a loss of control and sudden fall off a great height (from going dizzy or losing consciousness). When on a bridge or a ladder, there’s a fear that the bridge will collapse or the ladder will fall.
Tackling acrophobia requires controlled and careful exposure therapy, as well as talk therapy and frequent sessions with an experienced therapist. Taking anti-anxiety medication when going into situations where the condition can be triggered is also recommended at first.
There are many animals in the animal kingdom that we have every right to fear. While most animals fear us more than we fear them, there are certain things no one should have to stare down – including giant pythons, big cat predators like the jaguar and the lion, and rabid dogs. But zoophobia is a much more comprehensive fear, highlighted not just by the rational fear of facing a dangerous animal, but by the irrational fear of constantly being in danger of finding a dangerous animal.
Zoophobia can be exhibited as a constant worry that you may run into a rabid dog, or encounter a snake in the woods – but it can also be a fear of something smaller and more common in urban environments, like a house spider, a pigeon, or a wasp. That’s not to say that you have a form of zoophobia if you’re scared of that spider in your bedroom — most people react with fear when faced directly with an aggressive bird or a large spider. Instead, you suffer from zoophobia if you often have the invasive thought that there might be an animal you fear where there isn’t one, and people with zoophobia often get themselves into situations of distress without concrete rhyme or reason.
Tackling zoophobia can be difficult, as the fear is often so pervasive that you can’t commit to, or complete basic household tasks, or travel to certain places. However, these limitations can also serve as a sort of motivation to get you to confront and defeat your fears.
We can provide you with the tools to do so, through a unique and structured treatment plan composed of a few different therapy options depending on your fears and situation, including different forms of talk therapy, anti-anxiety medication, group therapy and meditation.
But ultimately, it’s on you to make the magic happen, and overcome your fears. Some phobias are temporary, and others last forever – but with our help, it’ll always be your choice to let the fear in or keep it out, rather than being helpless to its cold grip.
Trypanophobia is one among six commonly-used and highly technical terms used to roughly describe the same thing: an irrational, damaging and pervasive fear of intense pain through a sharp object, usually a pin or needle. It might sound like a childish fear to some, but to others, it’s very real – and even shameful. Most people don’t admit it because no one wants to be seen as weak, or irrational – but admitting and tackling your phobia is much better than letting it fester.
About 1 in 5 people report having an irrational fear of needles. That’s not in the least bit insignificant – yet the fewest actually tackle their fears through professional help. The result can be devastating – especially as modern medicine progresses, and increasingly more common yet deadly diseases can be treated with a preemptive shot or an immunization. It’s especially dangerous for people who absolutely require regular injections to avoid complications and death, such as Type I diabetics, or tetanus patients.
In other words, trypanophobia shouldn’t just be ignored for the sake of convenience. And with a relatively simple and consistent talk therapy treatment, most people can overcome their fear of needles and lead a normal life without the risk of evading medical help in serious cases.
Nosophobia is a fear of getting sick – specifically through a rather dangerous disease, such as a venereal disease, tuberculosis, tetanus, cancer or heart disease. It’s especially pronounced today, with the growth of modern media and the rapid sensationalism of issues in today’s news.
Like most phobias, nosophobia is highlighted by irrationality – it’s not tied to sound, critical thinking, but rather, a set of extreme reactions triggered by a powerful fear. People with nosophobia can seriously endanger their livelihoods and put themselves significantly out of pocket over a disease scare.
Dealing with nosophobia requires psychotherapy and group therapy – family support is especially important, in order to help people with nosophobia feel safer, and cement their own mental defenses against their fears. Nosophobia can be temporary, as a result of contracting and surviving a serious illness, or it can be a permanent condition with no known origin. Treatment, however, is generally the same: helping a patient rationalize and defeat their fears over time.
Homophobia is a fear of homosexuality or the attraction between two people of the same sex. The term was first explored in the 70s by the American psychiatric community, when being gay stopped being an official mental diagnosis, and the focus was instead shifted towards why some people are so against homosexuality.
By its very nature, homophobia is irrational. There’s nothing dangerous about homosexuality, and its perceived dangers are unfounded, and usually a result of society’s general difficulties to adjusting to the reality that a significant portion of men and women have always been gay. Furthermore, most people who hate the idea of homosexuality aren’t at all affected by it. But homophobia isn’t just a mindset in straight people who hate homosexuality. Some homosexuals have a severe loathing of their own sexuality and take steps to deny it, going to great lengths to do so.
The reasons for homophobia are uniquely different from most forms of phobia. While the symptoms are sometimes same – some homophobes experience physical discomfort at the idea of being the same space as a gay person – homophobia is typically a result of peer pressure, upbringing and deep-seated feelings of fear or hatred against homosexuality created through years of misconception, misattribution, and stigma. Furthermore, it isn’t usually highlighted by physical aversion – many homophobes actively seek out homosexuals in an effort to “convert” them to heterosexuality.
There no real treatment for homophobia because it isn’t a psychiatric illness, but a mindset. That being said, there are ways to avoid, avert and even prevent homophobia, through awareness campaigns, stigma debunking, and avoiding heteronormative concepts to discourage the idea that heterosexuality is the only “normal” expression of love, especially in a country where a significant portion of the population is asexual, homosexual or bisexual.
People with monophobia have an irrational fear of being on their own. When alone, they’ll usually exhibit signs of extreme discomforts, such as dizziness and heart palpitations – and they’ll refuse to complete even simple tasks without being accompanied by someone else, to the point of refusing to visit the bathroom alone. They’ll also feel the onset of a panic attack when left alone for more than a few minutes.
Monophobia can be extremely damaging to a person, and any relationships they enter. They may even cling to a horrible or abusive relationship out of fear of solitude. But, no matter how severe, any case of monophobia can ultimately be overcome.
Cognitive behavior therapy, in particular, is known to treat the majority of known phobias, and other types of talk therapy can be equally as effective, depending on the case and severity of a phobia. There is no concrete treatment plan, but we can guarantee that we’ll find a way to help you cope with your phobia, and create a set of mechanisms by which you can function normally alone.
Medication and therapy aren’t always the answer – to some, meditation and yoga are much better. Mindfulness therapy is also popular, as a way to control your fears and emotions.
But before you decide on any treatment option, the best option you can take is to call in and schedule an initial appointment. Don’t believe the fancy self-help pamphlets – there are no twelve steps, no magical medications, and a trip to a monastery won’t automatically grant you salvation from your fears. Similarly, immersing yourself in a tub or insects or going bungee jumping isn’t necessarily going to help either. But talking to an expert will.