According to the National Institute Of Mental Health, approximately 10% of adults are prone to phobias. The underlying reason for phobias are numerous, including, evolutionary and behavioural theories. They could trigger symptoms like nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, or even a panic attack in severe cases.
Below are the ten most common phobias, and the tips to overcome them.
1. Arachnophobia: Fear Of Spiders
Arachnophobia is one of the most common animal-related phobias (zoophobia). It is when a mere sight, thought or even a picture of spider or any arachnid (scorpion, mites) triggers fear and panic attacks. The evolutionary fact that some species of spiders are poisonous and fatal to human beings, and humans respond in a way to protect themselves, forms the basis of this fear.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat this phobia. It usually focuses on getting rid of the negative thoughts triggering fear, and replacing them with positive, more rational thoughts. Systematic desensitization is another therapy where the individual is subjected to fear-inducing conditions, and made to handle them in a relaxed state.
2. Ophidiophobia: Fear Of Snakes
Fear of snakes is the second most common phobia after arachnophobia. Even this has the basis rooting to the evolutionary fact that snakes are venomous, and the response of human beings to avoid any harm, induces fear. The symptoms include heart palpitations, crying, and shivering.
It is important to know the difference between ophidiophobia, and general fear of snakes which every human being has. In case of ophidiophobia, a picture, video or a distant sight of a snake could trigger intense fear. Hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy help overcome this fear gradually.
3. Acrophobia: Fear Of Heights
An irrational fear of heights which are not considerably high is called acrophobia. In this case, the person goes to greater length to avoid places like hillocks, high rise buildings, bridges, and top of the ladder. It is different from general cautiousness a normal person shows to heights, since this fear induces anxiety disorder in the individual suffering from it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat acrophobia, where tricks to handle the fear and panic reactions are taught.
4. Agoraphobia: Fear Of Open Or Crowded Places
An intense and abnormal fear of open and/or confined places is called agoraphobia. Open places like malls, large stores, bridges; and confined spaces like elevators, trains, planes; or even being all alone at home could trigger symptoms. Some of the symptoms are sweating, shivering, shortness of breath, chest pain, and choking.
Deep relaxation techniques, psychotherapy, yoga and meditation show effective results in overcoming agoraphobia.
5. Claustrophobia: Fear Of Small Spaces
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder in which the individual feels a “no-escape” situation in places like crowded elevator, airplane, tunnel, cave, basement, or small room without windows. The symptoms include panic attack, headache, nausea, sweating, shaking, choking, and continuous thoughts of being trapped or buried alive.
Exposure therapy is one of the techniques to overcome claustrophobia. In this technique the patient is exposed to the fear, and made to realize that the situation is not harmful. The others techniques are deep breathing, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and drugs like tranquillizers.
6. Mysophobia: Fear Of Germs
Mysophobia refers to excessive fear of germs, where the person is overtly concerned about cleaning and washing. It usually roots to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There is a significant difference between being tidy, and having mysophobia, since a mysophobe avoids social interactions because of the fear of getting infected.
The symptoms include excessive washing of hands, and in severe cases could cause nausea, dry mouth, heart palpitations, and sweating. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment.
7. Astraphobia: Fear Of Thunder And Lightning
Astraphobia is most commonly found in children, and seems to diminish as they grow-up. However, some adults also fall prey to it. As a result of which, a thunder and lightning could induce symptoms like fainting, nausea, crying, being persistently curious about the weather reports on TV, hiding in a room, and closing the windows and doors of the room.
In case of children, parents play an important role in soothing them, but severe cases would require medical attention. Adults can opt for psychotherapy, and self help techniques like meditation and deep breathing. Studies also show that having a dear one or pet around during such time helps.
8. Aerophobia: Fear Of Flying
Mild anxiety during flying is common in most of the individuals. But, aerophobia poses symptoms beyond it. Some of them are nausea, gastrointestinal problems, increased heart rate, nervousness, fear of falling to death, and lack of thought process clarity.
Techniques like virtual flight stimulation are breaking way to newer treatment options. Hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy also play a significant role in overcoming this phobia.
9. Cynophobia: Fear Of Dogs
Cynophobia, one of the zoophobias, is not as common as arachnophobia or ophidiophobia. However, an individual having it exhibits excessive fear of dogs, small or large. The symptoms include profuse sweating, trembling, freezing, running away, gastrointestinal distress, confusion, and loss of control.
Exposure therapy and systemic desensitization have shown effective results in treating cynophobia.
10. Trypanophobia: Fear Of Injections
General fear of injections in toddlers is common and temporary. However, if the fear extends to adulthood, it could interfere with the professional life and/or the pace at which an ailment gets treated in an individual. The person gets anxious, and shows extreme avoidance to situations where injections are mandatory, like vaccinations.
The symptoms include fainting, shortness of breath, increased heart beat, panic attack, and disturbing thoughts of death due to injection. Hypnotherapy, self-help techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy are known to help overcome this phobia.
Each phobia has a source like unpleasant past experience, evolutionary behavior, or a memory that triggers the phobia. Understanding the root cause plays an important role. An immediate medical attention in severe cases is mandatory.