What is a phobia?
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of something. This could be a living thing, an object, or a situation. In general, the difference between a simple fear and a phobia is what a person will do to avoid it. For example, someone might be fearful of speaking in public, but be able to get up their nerve, get to the podium, and make their speech. A phobia, however, might prevent the person from being able to even agree to speak publicly; simply thinking about it could cause a panic attack. With phobia treatment, however, many people can move past or at least manage their phobia.
Symptoms of a phobia
In casual conversation, people often use the words “phobia” and “fear” as if they’re interchangeable. What distinguishes fears from phobias are two things: intensity and rationality. Phobias are more intense and usually involve an irrational thought process; this is why phobia therapy is often necessary to begin recovery.
As an example of the difference between fear and phobia, most people will experience fear when they look over the edge of a railing when they are at the top of a building. This is a rational fear; they could fall and get badly hurt. A phobia of heights, however, could prevent a person from going to the top of the building in the first place, even though it’s safe. If someone tries to convince them to go, they could experience extreme reactions, even panic attacks. Phobia treatment works to minimize those extreme reactions.
Types of phobias
Phobias are actually very common; according to the Canadian Psychological Association, one in ten Canadians experiences phobias at some point. While phobias can be related to what seem like very mundane or commonplace situations or objects, they can relate to almost anything. Phobia therapists group phobias into three categories:
- Social phobia: fear of being singled out or humiliated in public.
- Agoraphobia: fear of being unable to escape. This is often misunderstood as a fear of open spaces, but it can be triggered anywhere it would be difficult to get somewhere safe if panic occurs.
- Specific phobia: a fear of a specific item or situation that doesn’t fit into one of the other two categories.
Coping with phobia
Phobia treatment often involves a combination of medication and therapy. The phobia therapy can be targeted in many different ways and with several different modalities. PRS therapists offer psychodynamic therapy. This therapy focuses on the interactions between the unconscious and conscious emotions and drives within a person. By looking at these interactions, it is possible to gain a better understanding of what is causing the phobia and how to improve mental health.
Talk to one of our therapists
At PRS Toronto, we will help you find a therapist who meets your needs and can help you understand how to move forward in your life with the most positive experience possible. Contact us today to get help moving past your phobia.