A fearful problem June 2009
Fears and phobias are today taken seriously. Phobias such as a fear of open spaces can totally disrupt lives and even less intrusive phobias such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) can cause real panic and play havoc with emotions and confidence.
Fear releases adrenaline and other chemicals into the blood to speed up the heart-rate and sharpen our senses and physical reactions; a change known as “fight or flight” when the body has reacted to either fight something dangerous or to run away. A phobia is when we show this fearful reaction to something that isn’t really as harmful as we perceive; when we show irrational terror over an object or a situation.
Phobias can cause a number of symptoms, from minor to incapacitating. These can include sweating, a dry throat and heart palpitations to breathing problems, feeling faint and fuzzy vision. In serious cases, people can lose control of themselves and even cause injury in their panic to escape from the cause of their acute fear.
The actual cause of phobias isn’t well documented, but the good news is that now they are taken very seriously by the medical profession as well as by most members of the public, and treatment is available. A positive aspect is that, whatever the type of phobia, it won’t normally cause any long term ill effects.
The easiest treatment is of course avoidance, and if the fear is of snakes, for instance, then these are usually able to be avoided easily and the problems are minimal. However, if the phobia is perhaps achluophobia, a fear of darkness, or agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces, then the problem is far more difficult and avoidance is not the answer.
A key to support is to ensure you do not belittle or make fun of the phobia; it is a very real fear and not something to be trivialised or taken lightly. Having good support from close friends and relatives can help a sufferer reduce and even overcome their fears.
Useful websites include:
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