What is a phobia?

Phobias are classified as a type of anxiety disorder in which the person has constant fear and anxiety about a particular situation or thing. The onset of specific situations or things occur rapidly when encountering a fearful object, and fear usually lasts for more than six months. The fear that people with phobias face is often disproportionate to their actual risks. There are many types of phobias; some phobias may be related to other types of anxiety. Individuals may notice their irrational fears but have no control over them.


Common types of phobias:

  • fear of heights (Acrophobia)
  • fear of socializing (Social phobia)
  • fear of spiders (Arachnophobia)
  • fear of small spaces (Claustrophobia)
  • fear of the dark (Nyctophobia)
  • fear of disease (Nosophobia)


When a phobia occurs, there may be a series of physiological reactions, such as palpitation, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, shivering, shortness of breath.


How to understand phobias:

The cause of phobias remains a mystery. Possible causes include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Negative experiences

  • Environment
  • Drugs or medications


How to Effectively manage phobias

1. Psychological treatment:
  1. Cognitive behavioural therapy
    Cognitive behavioural therapy introduces systematic stimulation and relaxation to patients in order to relieve fear and tension. This may involve psychological education, cognitive therapy (change in perspective), anxiety management, exposure therapy and other combined treatment.
  2. Desensitization/exposure therapy
    Exposure therapy involves repeatedly exposing an individual to the object or stimulus that causes fear.


Example: For individuals have a fear of spiders, exposure therapy might start with an individual imaginary image of a spider, then looking at the picture of the spider, to watching a spider video or VR, to evening possibly touching real spiders. Working in a step-by-step progression allows an individual to change the perception of the threat and reduce the amount of fear and anxiety.


2. Medication:

In some cases, medications such as sedatives, antidepressants and Beta-blockers may be used to treat phobias.


3. At the personal level:
  1. Alleviate phobia step-by-step; find effective ways to calm down
    Breathing exercises
  2. Teach yourself to relax
    Accept yourself
  3. Understand that your fears are caused by neurobiological reactions in your brain
    Be positive

  4. Calm down, avoid added pressure, turn nervousness into motivation
    Set small goals and adapt gradually

    For example, people with acrophobia should not force themselves to stand tall, but start from scratch and gradually increase their height, eventually gaining a sense of psychological adaptation.


4. Family and friends
  • Avoid judging, questioning or pressuring the individual

  • Be patient and respectful

  • Offer company during medical treatments

  • Give encouragement and provide emotional support