Disease: Phobias

    Phobia facts

    • The definition of a phobia is the unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it.
    • The three classes of phobias are social phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people or other social situations), agoraphobia (fear of being outside), and specific phobias (fear of other items or situations).
    • Although phobias are largely underreported, the number of people who suffer from phobias is estimated at more than 6 million people in the United States.
    • The average age that phobias begin is about 10 years of age.
    • Women tend to be twice as likely to suffer from a phobia compared to men.
    • While there are nearly as many phobias as there are situations, the most common kinds of phobias include social phobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, coulrophobia, aerophobia, zoophobia, arachnophobia, dentophobia, aichmophobia, ophidiophobia, acrophobia, mysophobia, and a fear of blood.
    • Agoraphobia often coexists with panic disorder.
    • If left untreated, a phobia may worsen to the point where the person's life is seriously affected by the phobia and by attempts to avoid or conceal it, leading to problems with personal health, friends and family, failures in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope.
    • Phobias tend to run in families, can be influenced by culture and parenting style, and can be triggered by life events.
    • Phobia sufferers have been found to be more likely to manage stress by avoiding the stressful situation and by having difficulty minimizing the intensity of the fearful situation.
    • Symptoms of phobias often involve panic attacks.
    • Assessment of phobias often includes questions by a trained professional that explore the symptoms being experienced, a medical interview, and a physical examination.
    • Phobias are often treated using desensitization, cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or medications.
    • The groups of medications doctors tend to choose from when treating a phobia include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, beta blockers, and occasionally, benzodiazepines.
    • Phobia sufferers sometimes cope with their fears by talking about it, refraining from avoiding situations they find stressful, visualization, and making positive self-statements.

    What is a phobia? What are the different kinds of phobias?

    A phobia is defined as the unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. The three types of phobias are social phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people, or other social situations), agoraphobia (fear of being outside), and specific phobias (fear of particular items or situations).

    Phobias are largely underreported, probably because many phobia sufferers find ways to avoid the situations of which they are phobic. Therefore, statistics that estimate how many people suffer from phobias vary widely. Phobias are not unusual. Women tend to be twice as likely to suffer from a phobia compared to men.

    Some of the most common phobias include fears of public speaking or other social situations (social phobia or social anxiety disorder), open spaces (agoraphobia), closed-in spaces (claustrophobia), clowns (coulrophobia), flying (aerophobia), blood, animals (zoophobia), commitment (commitment phobia), driving, spiders (arachnophobia), needles (aichmophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), math, heights (acrophobia or altophobia), germs (mysophobia), and having dental work done (dentophobia). Fears of midgets, haunted houses, helmets, pickles, and feet are just a few unusual fears/phobias and may be considered weird or strange by some but can be just as debilitating as those phobias that are more common. Agoraphobia often coexists with panic disorder.

    What are the complications of phobias?

    If left untreated, a phobia may worsen to the point in which the person's life is seriously affected, both by the phobia itself and/or by attempts to avoid or conceal it. For example, a fear of flying can result in the individual being unable to travel. In fact, some people have had problems with friends and family, failed in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope with a severe phobia. There may be periods of spontaneous improvement, but a phobia does not usually go away unless the person receives treatments designed specifically to help phobia sufferers. Alcoholics can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer from a phobia than those who are not alcoholics, and phobic individuals can be twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism or other addictions than those who have never been phobic. It has even been found that phobic anxiety can be life-threatening for some people, increasing the risk of suffering from heart disease in both men and women.

    What are the causes and risk factors for phobias?

    While there is no one specific known cause for phobias, it is thought that phobias run in families, are influenced by culture and how one is parented, and can be triggered by a number of different life events. Immediate family members of people with phobias are about three times more likely to also suffer from a phobia than those who do not have such a family history. People whose parents either were overly protective or were distant in raising them may be at more risk of developing phobias. Phobia sufferers have been found to be more likely to manage stress by avoiding the stressful situation and by having difficulty minimizing the intensity of the fearful situation. Another possible contributor to the development of phobias is classical conditioning. As it relates to phobias, in classical conditioning, a person responds to something frightening by generalizing the fear of that specific object or situation to more generalized objects or situations. For example, an individual may respond to a real threat by one dog to a fear of all dogs.

    What are the signs and symptoms of phobias?

    Symptoms of phobias often involve having a panic attack -- in that they include feelings of panic, dread, or terror, despite recognition that those feelings are excessive in relationship to any real danger -- as well as physical symptoms like shaking, sweating, trouble thinking clearly, nausea, rapid heart beat, trouble breathing, and an overwhelming desire to escape the situation that is causing the phobic reaction. Also, extreme measures are sometimes taken to avoid or escape the situation.

    How are phobias assessed?

    Many providers of health care may help with the diagnosis of phobias, including licensed mental-health therapists, family physicians, or other primary-care medical providers, specialists whom you see for a medical condition, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. If one of these professionals suspects that you may be suffering from a phobia, you will likely be asked a number of questions to understand all the symptoms you may be experiencing and you may need to submit to a medical interview and physical examination. A phobia may be associated with a number of other mental-health conditions, including schizophrenia. Phobias are particularly associated with other anxiety disorders. In addition to panic disorder, examples of other anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As anxiety disorders in general may be associated with a number of medical conditions or can be a side effect of various medications, routine laboratory tests are often performed during the initial evaluation to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.

    What is the treatment for phobias?

    Helping those who suffer from phobias is thought to be most effective when psychotherapy and medications that are specific to the treatment of phobia are both used. One form of psychotherapy involves the supportive and gradual exposure of the individual with phobias to circumstances that are increasingly close to the one they are phobic about (desensitization). These situations can either consist of actual or computer-generated anxiety-provoking stimuli.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to significantly decrease phobic symptoms by helping the phobia sufferer change his or her way of thinking. CBT uses three techniques to accomplish this goal:

    • Didactic component: This phase involves educating the individual about phobias and treatment and helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the cooperation of the person with a phobia.
    • Cognitive component: It helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the person's behavior, particularly those that may predispose him or her to being phobic.
    • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modifying techniques to teach the individual with a phobia more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are often used to treat phobias, particularly when desensitization and CBT are inadequately effective. These medications affect levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples of these medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro). The possible side effects of these medications can vary greatly from person to person and depend on which medication is being used. Common side effects of this group of medications include dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, nausea, tremors, trouble sleeping, blurred vision, constipation or soft stools, and dizziness. In very rare cases, some people have been thought to become more acutely more anxious or depressed once on the medication, even trying to or completing suicide or homicide. Children and teens are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this rare possibility.

    Learn more about: Prozac | Zoloft | Paxil | Luvox | Celexa | Lexapro

    Phobias are also sometimes treated using beta-blocker medications, which decrease the physical symptoms associated with panic by blocking the effects that adrenaline has on the body. An example of a beta blocker is propranolol. These disorders are also sometimes treated with drugs in a medication class known as benzodiazepines. This class of medications causes relaxation but is used with caution these days to treat anxiety due to the possibility of addiction and the risk of overdose, especially if taken when alcohol is also being consumed. Examples of medications from that group include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

    Learn more about: Valium | Xanax | Ativan | Klonopin

    What is a phobia? What are the different kinds of phobias?

    A phobia is defined as the unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. The three types of phobias are social phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people, or other social situations), agoraphobia (fear of being outside), and specific phobias (fear of particular items or situations).

    Phobias are largely underreported, probably because many phobia sufferers find ways to avoid the situations of which they are phobic. Therefore, statistics that estimate how many people suffer from phobias vary widely. Phobias are not unusual. Women tend to be twice as likely to suffer from a phobia compared to men.

    Some of the most common phobias include fears of public speaking or other social situations (social phobia or social anxiety disorder), open spaces (agoraphobia), closed-in spaces (claustrophobia), clowns (coulrophobia), flying (aerophobia), blood, animals (zoophobia), commitment (commitment phobia), driving, spiders (arachnophobia), needles (aichmophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), math, heights (acrophobia or altophobia), germs (mysophobia), and having dental work done (dentophobia). Fears of midgets, haunted houses, helmets, pickles, and feet are just a few unusual fears/phobias and may be considered weird or strange by some but can be just as debilitating as those phobias that are more common. Agoraphobia often coexists with panic disorder.

    What are the complications of phobias?

    If left untreated, a phobia may worsen to the point in which the person's life is seriously affected, both by the phobia itself and/or by attempts to avoid or conceal it. For example, a fear of flying can result in the individual being unable to travel. In fact, some people have had problems with friends and family, failed in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope with a severe phobia. There may be periods of spontaneous improvement, but a phobia does not usually go away unless the person receives treatments designed specifically to help phobia sufferers. Alcoholics can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer from a phobia than those who are not alcoholics, and phobic individuals can be twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism or other addictions than those who have never been phobic. It has even been found that phobic anxiety can be life-threatening for some people, increasing the risk of suffering from heart disease in both men and women.

    What are the causes and risk factors for phobias?

    While there is no one specific known cause for phobias, it is thought that phobias run in families, are influenced by culture and how one is parented, and can be triggered by a number of different life events. Immediate family members of people with phobias are about three times more likely to also suffer from a phobia than those who do not have such a family history. People whose parents either were overly protective or were distant in raising them may be at more risk of developing phobias. Phobia sufferers have been found to be more likely to manage stress by avoiding the stressful situation and by having difficulty minimizing the intensity of the fearful situation. Another possible contributor to the development of phobias is classical conditioning. As it relates to phobias, in classical conditioning, a person responds to something frightening by generalizing the fear of that specific object or situation to more generalized objects or situations. For example, an individual may respond to a real threat by one dog to a fear of all dogs.

    What are the signs and symptoms of phobias?

    Symptoms of phobias often involve having a panic attack -- in that they include feelings of panic, dread, or terror, despite recognition that those feelings are excessive in relationship to any real danger -- as well as physical symptoms like shaking, sweating, trouble thinking clearly, nausea, rapid heart beat, trouble breathing, and an overwhelming desire to escape the situation that is causing the phobic reaction. Also, extreme measures are sometimes taken to avoid or escape the situation.

    How are phobias assessed?

    Many providers of health care may help with the diagnosis of phobias, including licensed mental-health therapists, family physicians, or other primary-care medical providers, specialists whom you see for a medical condition, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. If one of these professionals suspects that you may be suffering from a phobia, you will likely be asked a number of questions to understand all the symptoms you may be experiencing and you may need to submit to a medical interview and physical examination. A phobia may be associated with a number of other mental-health conditions, including schizophrenia. Phobias are particularly associated with other anxiety disorders. In addition to panic disorder, examples of other anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As anxiety disorders in general may be associated with a number of medical conditions or can be a side effect of various medications, routine laboratory tests are often performed during the initial evaluation to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.

    What is the treatment for phobias?

    Helping those who suffer from phobias is thought to be most effective when psychotherapy and medications that are specific to the treatment of phobia are both used. One form of psychotherapy involves the supportive and gradual exposure of the individual with phobias to circumstances that are increasingly close to the one they are phobic about (desensitization). These situations can either consist of actual or computer-generated anxiety-provoking stimuli.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to significantly decrease phobic symptoms by helping the phobia sufferer change his or her way of thinking. CBT uses three techniques to accomplish this goal:

    • Didactic component: This phase involves educating the individual about phobias and treatment and helps to set up positive expectations for therapy and promote the cooperation of the person with a phobia.
    • Cognitive component: It helps to identify the thoughts and assumptions that influence the person's behavior, particularly those that may predispose him or her to being phobic.
    • Behavioral component: This employs behavior-modifying techniques to teach the individual with a phobia more effective strategies for dealing with problems.

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications are often used to treat phobias, particularly when desensitization and CBT are inadequately effective. These medications affect levels of serotonin in the brain. Examples of these medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro). The possible side effects of these medications can vary greatly from person to person and depend on which medication is being used. Common side effects of this group of medications include dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, nausea, tremors, trouble sleeping, blurred vision, constipation or soft stools, and dizziness. In very rare cases, some people have been thought to become more acutely more anxious or depressed once on the medication, even trying to or completing suicide or homicide. Children and teens are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this rare possibility.

    Learn more about: Prozac | Zoloft | Paxil | Luvox | Celexa | Lexapro

    Phobias are also sometimes treated using beta-blocker medications, which decrease the physical symptoms associated with panic by blocking the effects that adrenaline has on the body. An example of a beta blocker is propranolol. These disorders are also sometimes treated with drugs in a medication class known as benzodiazepines. This class of medications causes relaxation but is used with caution these days to treat anxiety due to the possibility of addiction and the risk of overdose, especially if taken when alcohol is also being consumed. Examples of medications from that group include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

    Learn more about: Valium | Xanax | Ativan | Klonopin

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    While there is no one specific known cause for phobias, it is thought that phobias run in families, are influenced by culture and how one is parented, and can be triggered by a number of different life events. Immediate family members of people with phobias are about three times more likely to also suffer from a phobia than those who do not have such a family history. People whose parents either were overly protective or were distant in raising them may be at more risk of developing phobias. Phobia sufferers have been found to be more likely to manage stress by avoiding the stressful situation and by having difficulty minimizing the intensity of the fearful situation. Another possible contributor to the development of phobias is classical conditioning. As it relates to phobias, in classical conditioning, a person responds to something frightening by generalizing the fear of that specific object or situation to more generalized objects or situations. For example, an individual may respond to a real threat by one dog to a fear of all dogs.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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