August 11, 2022
Phobias represent a special form of fear that is linked to certain objects, situations, places or activities. People who experience a phobia are aware that it is unrealistic, illogical or even excessive. The word phobia comes from the Greek word phobos which means flight, horror, panic, fear. Phobias usually result in a rapid onset of fear and are present for more than six months. Those affected will do their best to avoid the situation or objection, to a degree greater than the actual danger. If the object or situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant distress. Other symptoms may include fainting, which can occur in blood or injury phobia, and panic attacks, which are often found in agoraphobia. Approximately 75% of those with phobias have multiple phobias. Phobias can be divided into specific phobias, social phobias and agoraphobias. Specific phobias include those of certain animals, situations in the natural environment, blood or injury, and specific situations. The most common are fear of spiders, fear of snakes and fear of heights. Specific phobias can be caused by a negative experience with an object or situation in early childhood. Social phobia is when a person is afraid of a situation because of the worry that others will judge them. Agoraphobia is the fear of a situation due to the difficulty or impossibility of escape. It is recommended that certain phobias be treated with exposure therapy, in which the person becomes familiar with the situation or object until the fear is resolved. Medicines are not useful for specific phobias. Social phobia and agoraphobia are often treated with some combination of counseling and medication. Medications used include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or beta-blockers. Specific phobias affect about 6–8% of people in the Western world and 2–4% of people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in a given year. Social phobia affects about 7% of people in the United States and 0.5–2.5% of people in the rest of the world. Agoraphobia affects about 1.7% of people. Women are affected by phobias approximately twice as often as men. Typically, the onset of the phobia is around 10-17 years of age, with rates decreasing with increasing age. Those with phobias have a higher risk of suicide.