Saturday, February 19, 2011

What is your fear?

What is a phobia?

A phobia is something a person fears to the point that they feel they have to change how they behave. One type of phobia, called specific phobia, can involve fear of an object or a situation that poses little or no danger. Phobias can also involve fear of being embarrassed, looked at, or made fun of in social or work situations. These are called social phobias. With both of these phobias, the fear is extreme and hard to control. Without treatment, phobias can last many years and affect a person's career, relationships, and daily life activities. 

It is important to know that when a person has a specific or social phobia, it is not her or his fault. And, it is not something a person can just "snap out of." 

Specific phobias and the symptoms:
When a person has a specific phobia, they have an intense fear of something that poses little or no real danger. Because there is no or little danger, a person's fear is not based on reality (called irrational fear). Some of the more common specific phobias involve fear of closed-in places, heights, elevators, bridges, water, cats, dogs, and injuries involving blood. And, a specific phobia often makes no sense. For example, you are afraid of chicken but you eat Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Most people with these phobias know that they don't make sense. But, facing their fear, or even thinking about it, can bring on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

Social phobias and the symptoms:
Social phobia involves feeling very self-conscious in everyday social situations. It is more than just being shy or nervous, and can cause extreme anxiety. A person can feel afraid and uncomfortable when around other people. It may be hard to be at work or school, when you have to interact with others. While many people with these phobias know that their fear may be extreme, they are unable to control it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a situation they are dreading. This illness most often starts in childhood or the teenage years, and may run in families.

Symptoms include:
  • Intense fear that you will do or say something and embarrass yourself in front of other people.
  • Always being afraid of making a mistake and being watched and judged by other people.
  • Avoiding doing things you want to or speaking to people because you fear being embarrassed.
  • Worrying for days or weeks before you have to meet new people.
  • Blushing, sweating a lot, trembling, nausea, or feeling like you have to throw up before and during an event where you are with new people.
  • Staying away from social situations such as school events and making speeches.
  • Drinking alcohol to make your fears go away.
What should you do if you have a phobia?
If you think you may have symptoms of a specific or social phobia, a visit to your doctor is the best place to start. Your doctor will perform a careful exam to figure out whether your symptoms are really due to this illness, or if you have another anxiety disorder or problem.

Sometimes a person can feel awkward talking to a health care provider about phobias. They may blame themselves, think their condition is not serious, or feel embarrassed. Keep in mind that this illness can be treated. 

The next step your doctor may suggest is a visit with a mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. It is best to look for a professional who has special training in cognitive-behavioral and/or behavioral therapy. Keep in mind that when you start taking medicine, it may not start working right away. You need to give your body a few weeks to get used to the medicine. Then, you and your doctor can decide if it's working.

10 well-known people and their phobias

10. George Washington
Taphephobia (Fear of being buried alive)

9. Woody Allen
Panophobia (Fear of pretty much everything)

8. Richard Nixon
Nosocomephobia (Fear of hospitals)

7.Alfred Hitchcock
Ovophobia (Fear of eggs)

6. Sigmund Freud
Fear of weapons and ferns

5. Oprah Winfrey
Fear of gum chewing

4.Natalie Wood

Hydrophobia (Fear of water)

3.Billy Bob Thornton
Several fears (Bright colours, antique furniture, clowns)

2.Nikola Tesla
Fear of gems and jewelry

1. Napoleon Bonaporte
Ailurophobia (Fear of cats)

Sources: National Institute of Mental Health on

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