Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder. They are an irrational and relatively strong fear that something poses a risk when in reality; it poses very little danger if any at all. There are a number of phobias and millions of people have them.
Those who have phobias attempt to avoid the very thing that scares them. If they are confronted with their fear, they may experience a rapid heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, panic and many may simply attempt to get away from the thing that is causing their fear. Many researchers suggest that phobias may be genetic.
“Phobias usually start in children or teens, and continue into adulthood. The causes of specific phobias are known, but they sometimes run in families”
Fear is generally a normal response to danger. In those who have phobias however, this fear is often completely irrational and in some patients, very excessive. Thesymptoms of phobias vary from patient to patient but typically include a recognition that the experienced fear is beyond normal boundaries. Most people with phobias generally feel that they are in extreme danger and will take every step possible to avoid that danger at all costs.
While there are many medications that are prescribed for the treatment of phobias, some patients respond well to alternative treatments.
“If you suffer from mild phobias try to reduce anxiety through relaxation exercises or yoga and meditation”
Avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly and various relaxation techniques can help to calm a patient who is suffering from phobias. Counseling is also available through many medical centers and has been shown to be very effective for some phobias.
According to Dr. Jesse Wright, psychiatrist at the University of Louisville Physicians, overcoming phobias means meeting fears head-on. Dr. Wright believes that the best way to treat a phobia is to completely overcome it. This means no medication. Treatment is simply done through repeated confrontation with the fear. For someone who has a phobia about flying for instance, getting on an airplane and taking even a short flight will help them to overcome their fear.
“To really overcome it, you have to look the fear in the eye and say OK, this is nothing, really, that I need to be afraid of”
Wright believes that patients will respond much better to scenarios where they are confronted by their fears as opposed to avoiding situations where those fears may come to light. Therapists cannot go with their patients however at all times and ensure that they are conquering their fears. This is where Wright’s program Virtually Better comes in. The computer based program allows patients to experience their fears without actually living them out. It can for instance, simulate an airport terminal, getting on an airplane and even taking off. Many patients have found that this form of therapy is very effective in helping them to overcome their phobias and live a more normal life although research is still being done as to the complete effectiveness of a simulated situation.