Phobia! Can It Be Overcome or Not?
Shova is really afraid of getting needles and blood. When she was eight years old, she passed out at the doctor’s office while getting her blood drawn for a blood test. Since then, Shova avoids watching or thinking about anything that has to do with blood, needles, or medical procedures. She says that they make her feel as if her heart is racing and she can’t breathe or think, or that she will freak out and faint again. Before every doctor’s visit, Shova has to repeatedly ask for reassurance from her mother.
During her last check-up, the doctor tried to bring up the topic of taking a blood test, but Shova got very upset and started to breathe heavily and shake. She also began crying and telling her mom repeatedly that she wanted to go home. Shova’s mom was very worried by her daughter’s reaction and feared that she might have a panic attack.
This condition is called “Trypanophobia”; the fear of needles, blood and medical procedures. But the question is, why is Shova afraid of needles and how can this fear be overcome?
What are Phobias?
A phobia is irrational fear of something that’s unlikely to cause harm. The source of fear can be anything like water, height, dogs, spiders, driving, blood, spiders, closed places, needles, specific situations etc. People who have phobia often realize that their fear is irrational, but they are unable to do anything about it. Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders. In a phobia, the areas of the brain that deal with fear and stress keep retrieving the frightening event inappropriately.
There are three types of phobia recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). These are “Specific phobia”, “social phobia”, “Agoraphobia”. Depending on sources, phobias have different names like:
- Acrophobia (fear of heights)
- Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed or tight spaces)
- Aviophobia (fear of flying)
- Dentophobia (fear of the dentist or dental procedures)
- Hemophobia (fear of blood or injury)
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
- Cynophobia (fear of dogs)
- Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
- Nyctophobia (fear of the nighttime or darkness)
- Hypochondria (fear of becoming ill)
- Zoophobia (fear of animals)
- Driving phobia (fear of driving a car)
- Emetophobia (fear of vomiting)
These are only a few examples. People can develop a phobia of almost anything. Also, as society changes, the list of potential phobias changes.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of a Phobia?
Genetics and environment can be the cause of phobias. Children who have a close relative with an anxiety disorder are at risk of developing a phobia. Sometimes childhood incidents or traumas can cause phobias too.
As for symptoms, one may not experience them until one comes into contact with the source of one’s phobia. But in some cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make a person feel anxious or panicky. This is known as anticipatory anxiety. A person is likely to experience feelings of panic and intense anxiety when exposed to the object of their phobia. The physical effects of these sensations can include:
- abnormal breathing
- accelerated heartbeat and palpitations
- hot flashes or chills
- a choking sensation
- chest pains or tightness
- butterflies in the stomach
- dry mouth
- confusion and disorientation
- sleep problems
How to Overcome Phobia?
Many people with a phobia don’t need treatment and avoiding the object of their fear is enough to control the problem. It is not possible to avoid the triggers of some phobias, as is often the case with complex phobias. In these cases, speaking to a mental health professional can be the first step to recovery. Most phobias can be cured with appropriate treatment. There is no single treatment that works for every person with a phobia. The main treatment types are:
- self-help techniques
- talking treatments
If you want to overcome your irrational fear, then self-help strategies and therapy can both be effective at treating a phobia. But what is the best treatment for you depends on the type of phobia you have. As a general rule, self-help is always worth a try. The more you can do for yourself, the more in control you’ll feel—which goes a long way when it comes to phobias and fears. You have to follow some steps to overcome your fear in self-help strategies. These steps include:
- Face your fears but slowly try it. Don’t pressurize yourself.
- Learn to calm down quickly.
- Challenge negative thoughts about your phobia.
- Remind yourself that your anxiety is a storehouse of wisdom.
- Use humor to deflate your worst fears.
- Appreciate your courage.
- Regular exercise.
- Eating regular, healthy meals.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Reducing or avoiding caffeine and other stimulants.
- Don’t try to be perfect.
- Focus on positive thoughts.
- Practice mindfulness.
The doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist may recommend behavioral therapy, medications, or a combination of both. This would help in reducing fear and anxiety symptoms.
And lastly, there is nothing to worry about because phobias can be cured. You just need to work on yourself.