Phobias: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Symptoms of Phobias
- Pounding or racing heart
- Dry mouth
- Upset stomach
- Inability to speak
- Rapid speech
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest pain or tightness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sense of impending doom
- Profuse sweat
- Elevated blood pressure
Causes and Risk Factors of Phobias
How Phobias are Diagnosed
Diagnosing a phobia often depends on the specific fear that the individual has developed. There are no specific lab tests used to diagnose these disorders, but people often undergo an exam with their physician. They will be assessed for their physical and mental health history. Doctors will also evaluate their experiences with their proposed phobia. The goal of the physical exam is to ensure that there is not another situation occurring that could be causing this phobia to be present.
A psychologist or psychiatrist would be the most appropriate individual to see after the doctor determines it is a psychological concern. They will interview and assess the individual using the most recent tools and methodology available. By the end of their assessments, they will see if it is a phobia or not.
The diagnosis depends on the physical and mental symptoms when the individual is triggered by fear. It also will depend on if their phobia interferes with their daily life. Based on these factors, they will be able to tell whether or not the phobia is present and how they can best treat the individual case through specified treatment methods.
How Phobias Are Treated
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
This is among the most common and involves therapy to expose the individual to the situation through gradual means. They will use systematic desensitization or even exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy when this happens. The goal of these two treatments is to help the individual be slowly exposed so that their fear lessens. Not every patient responds favorably, though, and it depends on the extent of the fear that the individual feels when their phobia symptoms arise.
The benefit of using this is that it avoids medication and reintroduces the trigger back into the person’s life, slowly but surely. However, there are challenges, and it is not an excellent fit for those who might have a more severe phobia. Other treatments, like medication or relaxation techniques, might be better in these scenarios.
Many people turn to prescription drugs as a form of relief from their symptoms. This can help if your situation is so intense that it disrupts your daily life. The most common that are prescribed are Xanax, Ativan, Lexapro, Prozac, and Paxil. These are all generally considered to be relaxation medications or even anti-anxiety medications. In addition, beta-blockers are also used, which can stop the physical symptoms from arising in the presence of the physical phobia trigger.
The benefit is that these demean acute symptoms you might be experiencing. Still, they can also challenge how people adapt quickly and how this is an external chemical seeking to require your brain activity. When you take these substances, you can end up becoming too dependent, and they can even become too weak for you over time. These are not long-term solutions, and they often have drastic consequences for those who rely on them solely.
For individuals who need to get their feelings out, cognitive behavior therapy is a viable option. This helps individuals understand their thoughts, rework their behavioral patterns and understand for themselves where they might be struggling more than they should be. This can be helpful, but it also takes some time and therapists are often not as affordable as other options.
Relaxation and meditation
Neuroplasticity and brain rewiring
How to Live and Cope with Phobias
Frequently Asked Questions
- Claustrophobia: fear of confined spaces
- Aerophobia: fear of flying
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Driving phobia: fear of driving a car
- Emetophobia: fear of puking
- Erythrophobia: fear of blushing
- Hypochondria: fear of being ill
- Zoophobia: fear of animals
- Aquaphobia: fear of water
- Acrophobia: fear of heights