Persistent Fear Of An Object Or Situation
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to fear a certain object or situation. It’s not known why phobias occur in some people but not in others, but it’s safe to say that genetics and the environment are at play once again. Genetics dictate our personality traits, so if your parent had a specific phobia towards spiders, there’s a good chance that you will too.
The environment plays a role as well. For instance, if you were bit or startled by a spider as a child, the environment has now conditioned you to be afraid of spiders from that point on. There are many different types of phobias:
- Pteromerhanophobia: fear of flying
- Claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces
- Trypanophobia: fear of needles
- Astraphobia: fear of storms
- Gynophobia: fear of dogs
- Agoraphobia: fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment
. . . and the list goes on. But just because you have a phobia does not mean that you cannot get rid of it. Therapy such as exposure and response prevention is exactly what it sounds like: a person is exposed to their phobia and are refrained from their ritualistic or compulsive behavior that functions to decrease their distress.
It’s also known as “flooding”: the person is placed in a situation that causes them to encounter their fear without escape. An example is a flight simulation room for people who are afraid of flying. The person is exposed to the flight simulator, causing them excessive fear and anxiety, but they are not allowed to leave the room until their fear and anxiety have dissipated.
Many people can have a fear or general discomfort to the most common phobias, but they do not allow them to affect their lives. But someone with a phobia cannot function when it comes to their fear. For instance, if a person is required by their job to fly to different conferences around the world, they will request from their boss to be reassigned another position.
Or worse, they will attempt to fly and have the worst panic attack of their life, possibly requiring a medical evaluation and disruption of public affairs. After one or two awful experiences, they will most likely quit their job. But someone with a general discomfort towards flying will continue to fly if need be, with no adverse effects.
That is the difference between a person with a general discomfort towards something and someone with a specific phobia. It almost always comes down to perception: how you view yourself and your surroundings dictates how you will interact with your environment. The best medication is you! You have the power to change how you think, and the objective almost always comes down to, “what can I do to change my perception of my reality?”
If you can figure that out, then you’re on the right path to defeating your phobia.
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Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)