Phobia: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Overview

A phobia is an anxiety disorder of an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation which disrupts people’s ability to function in normal daily activities. Unlike general anxiety disorders, a phobia is usually associated with something specific. Adults with phobias usually realize that their fear is irrational or excessive, which is not a typical insight in children with phobia.

An estimated 11 percent of the U.S. population—about 25,000,000 people—may suffer from a phobia during their lifetime.

Causes

Based on two types of
phobias, including specific phobias and complex phobias, there are different
causes of this condition listed below:

  • Specific phobias

Phobias that start during childhood can be
caused by witnessing the phobia of a family member.

  • Complex phobias

Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are at risk of developing a phobia.  Researchers currently believe complex phobias are caused by a combination of distressing events, brain chemistry, genetics and physical problems. Exposure to confined spaces, extreme heights, and animal or insect bites can all be sources of phobias. One example would be claustrophobia developing over time after a younger child has an unpleasant experience in a confined space.

Changes in brain functioning also may play a role in developing specific phobias. Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are at risk of developing a phobia. People with ongoing medical conditions or health concerns often have phobias.

Symptoms

A person with a phobia will experience the following symptoms. They are common across most phobias:

  • a sensation of uncontrollable anxiety when
    exposed to the source of fear
  • a feeling that the source of that fear must be
    avoided at all costs
  • an inability to function properly when exposed
    to the trigger
  • acknowledgment that the fear is irrational,
    unreasonable, and exaggerated, combined with an inability to control the
    feelings

In addition to the symptoms of phobias that are used for diagnosis, additional signs of phobias exist, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is based on the patient’s account of
their experiences. Diagnostic criteria are also given in the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American
Psychiatric Association.

  •  Social Phobia Diagnosis

Social phobia diagnosis includes questions—if
the person fears embarrassing themselves before others, worries about what
people might think of them and feels anxious in social situations.

  • Agoraphobia Diagnosis

This is an anxiety
disorder that occurs in individuals who fear open spaces. Patients are asked if
they do all they can to avoid such situations because they fear a panic attack.

  • Specific Phobia Diagnosis

Specific phobia diagnosis includes questions like the presence of marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation.

Treatment

  • Psychotherapy

Exposure therapy focuses on changing your response to the object or situation
that you fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves exposure combined with other
techniques to learn ways to view and cope with the feared object or situation
differently.

  • Medications

Beta blockers and sedatives may be used during initial treatment or for short-term use in specific.

  • Lifestyle and home remedies

Mindfulness strategies, relaxation techniques and physical
exercise are all options in this regard.

Keywords: phobia.

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