Phobia and Fear Treatment Cardiff
Definition of phobia and fear
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: Fear is a natural emotion that helps protect you from imminent or real danger. A phobia is an anxiety disorder that causes you to feel intense fear of an object, situation, place, or living organism. In contrast to the level of danger commonly felt with a fear, the reaction with a phobia is more severe, usually triggering a panic attack. With a fear you may cautiously interact with the object or situation but with a phobia, the intensity of your anxiety influences the way that you lead your life. When you have a phobia, you mould your lifestyle to avoid the object or situation, even though the imagined danger is usually far greater than it actually is in reality.
How common are phobias?
Some phobias that develop during childhood can be short term and can disappear within a few months. However, 80% of phobias that progress into adulthood can become chronic and need to be treated. Approximately 10 million people in the UK have a phobia, and the sufferers can be of any age, sex, and social background. You may feel embarrassed about having a phobia, but you are certainly not alone however remote your phobia might be.
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: Types of phobias
Phobias can be divided into 2 main types:
- Specific or simple phobias
- Complex phobias
Specific or Simple Phobias
Specific or simple phobias are an irrational fear caused by the thought or presence of a single specific object or situation. The phobia usually develops at a young age, and as you grow into adulthood, its intensity may become less severe. As an adult with a phobia, you can appreciate that your panic reaction is usually disproportionate to the actual danger you are in, but you are still unable to prevent your reaction from overwhelming you.
Specific or simple divided into the following types:
- Animal phobias: these are the most common, and can include being afraid of anything living such as a fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of dogs (cynophobia), fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) or a fear of insects (entomophobia).
- Situational phobias: these can occur in response to a specific situation such as a fear of flying (aerophobia), fear of visiting the dentist (dentophobia), or fear of being in enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).
- Natural environment phobias: these can include examples such as a fear of water (hydrophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of storms (astraphobia), or a fear of contamination or germs (mysophobia).
- Blood-injection-injury phobias: this category can include a fear of blood (haemophobia), a fear of needles or invasive medical procedures (trypnophobia) and fear of injury (traumatophobia). These are specific fears that evoke the emotion of disgust and anxiety. They can also cause a further fear of fainting.
- Other phobias: these can include various fears such as a fear of falling (basophobia) or fear of costumed characters such as clowns (coulrophobia).
These phobias have an overwhelming effect on an individual’s life and mostly develop during teenagehood and adulthood, although the roots of the phobia can be caused in childhood. These are commonly divided into 2 types:
Social phobia: This is also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, and is affiliated with feeling extremely shy or anxious in social situations. With a social phobia, your “danger” is focused on another person’s negative reaction. Thus, you fear embarrassment, humiliation, attention, judgement and intimidation from other people. In its generalised form, all aspects of social interaction are affected by anxiety and can also be combined with introversion where you feel even more anxious in the presence of larger groups. In its specific form, social phobia can affect individual situations such as meeting new people or eating in public. It can also be characterised by performance anxiety situations e.g. when public speaking (or performing in front of an audience), during exams, interviews, in sports performance and in sexual performance situations. When you have an individual phobia and a social phobia to cope with, the social phobia adds another layer of “embarrassment” anxiety. You fear drawing negative attention to yourself with a public display of your panic attack. With an individual phobia and social phobia, great effort is also placed on hiding your anxiety symptoms, since you don’t know who to trust with this information or whether you will be taunted or bullied by your peers.
Agoraphobia: This is commonly associated with the fear of open spaces but can include numerous fears which ultimately leave the sufferer housebound. Before a complex agoraphobia develops, individual phobias and/or a social phobia may combine to gradually affect the sufferer. Other fears that can activate the agoraphobia include a fear of loneliness (monophobia), a fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia) which conditions a hurried exit from the situation to a safe place (usually your home), and health anxiety (hyperchondriasis) – the fear of that your anxiety symptom is a more harmful condition. As these fears and avoidance strategies progress, panic disorder can surface where the panic attacks can seem random and unexpected. Your home becomes the “safe place”, but journeys from home can vary from individual to individual depending on the method of travel, distance from home, the activity upon arrival, the situation, time of day, whether you can trust your company during the journey and/or upon arrival. When agoraphobia is untreated, the anticipation of leaving the house can trigger the panic attacks meaning that your home is no longer your safe place.
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: What causes a phobia?
There are numerous causes of a phobia ranging from direct trauma, parental influences and genetics. Follow this link more information on the causes of a phobia.
Diagnosis and prognosis of a phobia
Most specific or individual phobias are not formally diagnosed by a doctor. As the condition develops in childhood, you are often told by parents or other authority figures that you have a phobia. As a young child, you live “within” the condition, guided by your parents’ reactions and management of your phobia. Their diagnosis or lack of diagnosis could be influenced by the existence of their own phobias which biases their reaction to you e.g. if they have a social phobia they are more likely to protect you from embarrassment, advising you to avoid a social situations where you could be exposed to “embarrassment” harm.
Following their informal diagnosis and you grow older as a child, you will then research your own condition for confirmation of your behaviour, symptoms and potential coping strategies. Avoidance is the common short-term coping strategy but each retreat only serves to reinforce the power of the phobia over you.
Shock is a common reaction to the diagnosis of a condition as you begin to come to terms with the full meaning of a phobia. As a growing child, avoidance may continue to dominate your behaviour even with your progressive understanding of the phobia. Assessing possible solutions to your phobia can be met with indecision because the commitment necessary to confront it can build anticipatory anxiety when the situation beckons. The accumulation of anticipatory anxiety itself can “flood” your response to the phobic situation, overwhelm you and create yet another traumatic setback in your self help phobia treatment plan; your anticipatory anxiety feelings justify your avoidance instincts.
Fear of embarrassment may play a central role in the prognosis of a simple phobia through teenagehood as your value system shifts towards the approval of your peers. Again with a social phobia you can rationally understand how it is affecting you, yet still feel helpless to deal with the negative attention that it can generate.
Between teenagehood and adulthood, some phobia sufferers can react with denial or shame until you are able to fully accept how the condition is affecting you. To admit that you have anxiety might be considered a weakness by your peers and be a target for bullying. This adds more anxiety in those situations where your panic reaction could be visible to your peers e.g. when speaking in public.
A fear of public speaking (glossophobia) is a demanding situation for many people. When you add social anxiety, it can expose the common social phobia symptoms like blushing and shaking to your peer audience. It can also affect the control of your speech with tension felt in the diaphragm and vocal chords, leaving you breathless when you are desperately trying to sound confident. The effort to suppress these symptoms becomes a distraction to the skills needed to speak in public, but are considered the priority for the social phobia sufferer.
A fear of public speaking is a phobic situation that can span school, undergraduate study and your adult career. Public speaking traumas from school can leave avoidance footprints throughout this period, influencing you to avoid undergraduate presentation tasks, or job applications (or promotions) that specify public speaking in the new role. Where there is the opportunity to delegate, you will justify it as being good development for the subordinate staff.
If the growing need to confront your phobia hasn’t sabotaged your career opportunities, the damage that it can do to your relationships may serve as a “wake up call” to treat certain phobias. In a new relation, the early motivation of the “honeymoon period” can easily mask a deeper social phobia, with shyness appearing as an endearing quality. During this stage of relationship bliss, the anxiety is temporarily “transferred” to your partner as you both push emotional boundaries and are being supported by the other partner to be your “best” person. As the honeymoon period fades, the social anxiety “returns” to its original owner with the declining desire to socialise if the social phobia has not been overcome. The social phobic partner hopes that their gregarious partner is accepting of these changing relationship dynamics or the relationship can be strained with a diminishing desire to socialise together.
Even a flying phobia can impact on a couple’s holiday arrangements and be a source of relationship break down for intolerant partners. Indeed, there are solutions to enjoy holidays together without the need for flying, but the pressure to overcome a phobia is again brought into the limelight with a new family. Parents are aware of how young children can easily learn and imitate phobic behaviour. In an attempt to avoid guilt and shame, this can be a time to motivate the phobic parent to confront the phobia. A phobia held for many years is still treatable, but the treatment now has a long history of conditioned avoidance to work through. The treatment also has to take into consideration the time pressures of working and a family lifestyle that limit the time necessary for graduated exposure to the phobia and its benefits to alleviate it.
During adulthood, the consolidation of personality traits and other mental health conditions can reinforce the affects of a phobia e.g. anger may be communicated as a defence strategy to mask the embarrassment of the phobia or some OCD issues can attach themselves to the phobia forming deeper ritualised patterns of avoidance.
But despite the potential restrictions that a phobia can cause you, your family and your lifestyle, the growing awareness and tolerance of a phobia as a mental health issue can mean that your phobia can still be supported. As you learn to live with your phobia and justify your avoidance, those people close to you can, where possible, change their lives so that you are protected from the distress of your panic attack.
What are the major common symptoms of a phobia?
A panic attack is the acute anxiety condition common with all phobias. You can feel specific symptoms whenever you encounter the object or situation of your phobia. In some cases, you can also experience milder symptoms just by thinking about that object or situation. The severity of your individual anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person.
Psychological anxiety symptoms can include:
- Extreme feelings of fear: these will be intensified as you get closer to your specific phobia object or situation.
- Irrational thoughts: you can appreciate that what you fear does not affect other people in the same way; and that the likelihood that the feared experience is going to actually happen is very remote; and that your fearful reaction is usually disproportionate to the degree of actual harm that you are in, yet this still does not alleviate the severity of your response.
- Hopelessness, frustration and confusion: the conflict of these emotions tearing away at your mind can leave you feeling helpless, anxious and embarrassed.
Physical anxiety symptoms can include:
- Dizziness, light headedness, and nausea when facing your phobia.
- Excessive sweating and an increase in heart rate/palpitations.
- Shortness of breath and shaking.
- An upset stomach (nervous diarrhoea) or IBS is also a common.
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: Common Phobia Treatments
For many people the common self help phobia treatment is avoidance. If the phobic object or situation rarely affects your life then avoiding it (in the short term) will give you a feeling of control. Connected to avoidance is delegation with certain specific phobias. Getting someone else to remove a spider with a spider phobia (in the short term) is an effective way of minimising anxiety. Changing your lifestyle to minimise exposure can seem drastic to non-phobia sufferers but would only be done out of necessity to reduce long term suffering.
After avoidance, delegation and lifestyle changes to minimise exposure, the next level of treatment approach can include a combination of attending self-help groups and self-initiated exposure therapy. With simple phobias, creating a hierarchy of graduated exposure situations can take time to work through but with the effective use of relaxed breathing techniques or mindfulness, it can prevent the “flooding” of intense anxiety. Flooding (when the participant is not prepared) can cause traumatising setbacks in the alleviation of a phobia.
Complex phobias and agoraphobia are usually more difficult for the sufferer to objectively confront and work through by yourself, unless you understand your belief system and can stage graduated exposure situations that don’t generate internal conflicts. This is where certain talking therapies like counselling or CBT can be helpful, creating an understanding of your beliefs and conflicts so that you can then progressively confront your phobia.
Medication such as tranquilisers is not usually helpful for phobias but they can reduce the short term effect of a recent traumatic exposure of anxiety. Beta-blockers can reduce the effect of panic when you know that you are about to confront a phobic situation e.g. when public speaking. Antidepressants are more beneficial with certain long terms situations found with complex phobias and agoraphobia. The use of any medication should be done in consultation with your GP.
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: Treating phobias using Hypnotherapy
You may tell yourself that the source of your phobia does not pose an actual threat, however, your mind and body will still react with fear because your phobic reaction exists at the subconscious level. Hypnotherapy is a technique that allows you to understand and disconnect the cause of your phobia. It can help you communicate with your subconscious mind to change how you feel towards the phobia. Under hypnosis, you will feel extremely relaxed while still being in control allowing you to confront your fears without actual exposure trauma. Follow this link for more information on how you can treat your phobia and fear with hypnotherapy.
Phobia and fear treatment Cardiff: for more information contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff