Phobias are an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles. However, we can develop phobias of virtually anything. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.
If you have a phobia, you probably realize that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t control your feelings. Just thinking about the feared object or situation may make you anxious. And when you’re actually exposed to the thing you fear, the terror is automatic and overwhelming.
The experience is so nerve-wracking that you may go to great lengths to avoid it — inconveniencing yourself or even changing your lifestyle. If you have claustrophobia, for example, you might turn down a lucrative job offer if you have to ride the elevator to get to the office. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive an extra twenty miles in order to avoid a tall bridge.
Understanding your phobia is the first step to overcoming it. It’s important to know that phobias are common. Having a phobia doesn’t mean you’re crazy! It also helps to know that phobias are highly treatable. You can overcome your anxiety and fear, no matter how out of control it feels.
Phobias Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of a phobia can range from mild feelings of apprehension and anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. Typically, the closer you are to the thing you’re afraid of, the greater your fear will be. Your fear will also be higher if getting away is difficult.
Phobias Physical signs and symptoms
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Racing or pounding heart
- A churning stomach
- Chest pain or tightness
- Hot or cold flashes; tingling sensations
- Trembling or shaking
Emotional signs and symptoms of a phobia
- Feeling of overwhelming anxiety or panic
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Feeling an intense need to escape
- Feeling like you’re going to die or pass out
- Feeling “unreal” or detached from yourself
- Knowing that you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control your fear