What is a Specific Phobia?
A specific phobia is an irrational fear in response to a specific object, situation or place. Individuals with a Specific Phobia experience heightened levels of anxiety in anticipation of or upon exposure to the feared stimulus. These anxious reactions tend to include intense physical reactions such as rapid breathing, a racing heart, sweating, and an inability to concentrate on other tasks. Some individuals experience panic attacks upon exposure to their phobic stimulus.
What are some of the common Specific Phobias?
Specific phobias can be broken down into five main subgroups:
- Animal Phobias e.g. snakes, toads, birds, spiders
- Situational Phobias e.g. flying, bridges, tunnels, elevators
- Natural Environment Phobias e.g. storms, water, heights
- Blood Injection Injury Phobias e.g. needles, blood tests, seeing blood, certain medical procedures
- Other Phobias e.g. fear of vomiting, inanimate objects, fear of choking
- Do you feel overly nervous within a certain situation, when you observe or even when you think about a certain object or activity?
- Do you actively try to avoid such feared objects or situations? For example, avoiding going to certain places where feared object maybe present, avoiding health visits or changed your lifestyle in some way?
- Does the distress or avoidance negatively impact on your life in some way?
How common are Specific Phobias?
Research indicates that Specific Phobias are diagnosed in approximately 11% of the Australian population, and this is likely to be an under-estimate of actual cases.
Specific Phobias can occur at any age, though they tend to develop during childhood or early adolescence. Of all the Anxiety Disorders, children are most likely to be diagnosed with a Specific Phobia and they are less likely to recognise their fears as irrational. If left untreated, Specific Phobias tend to worsen overtime as individual’s fears become more entrenched and avoidance generalises.
What treatments are recommended for Specific Phobias?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Behaviour Therapy are the psychological treatments recommended for Specific Phobias. The components of CBT for Specific Phobias essentially involve identifying irrational thoughts which are contributing to an individual’s anxiety, practicing anxiety management techniques including applied tension for some individuals with Blood Injury Injection Phobia, and then developing a structured graduated exposure plan to work through with the support of your psychologist.
Medications may be recommended for some individuals when entering extremely anxiety provoking situations such as before flying when someone has a fear of flying. Your General Practitioner or Psychiatrist will be able to provide further information on medication options.
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