A phobia is an uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear of a certain object, situation, or activity. This fear can be so overwhelming that a person may go to great lengths to avoid the source of this fear. One response can be a panic attack. This is a sudden, intense fear that lasts for several minutes.
People with phobias can have panic attacks. These can be very frightening and distressing. The symptoms often occur suddenly and without warning.
As well as overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a panic attack can cause physical symptoms, such as:
hot flushes or chills
shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
a choking sensation
rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
pain or tightness in the chest
a sensation of butterflies in the stomach
headaches and dizziness
numbness or pins and needles
a need to go to the toilet
ringing in your ears
confusion or disorientation
While phobias can be distressing and create disruptions in your life, they are treatable. Some of the different treatment options include therapy and medication.
01 Exposure Therapy
In this type of treatment, you are gradually and progressively exposed to what you fear. You might start by just thinking about your phobia trigger and then move slowly toward looking at images of the object and finally being near the object in real life.
Types of exposure-based treatments that may be used include:
In vivo exposure: This involves being exposed to the source of your fear in real life.
Virtual exposure: This involves the use of virtual reality to practice gradual exposure.
Systematic desensitization: This involves being gradually exposed until you become desensitized to the source of your fear.
During this process, you'll also practice relaxation techniques to help calm your body when your fear response kicks in.
02 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Often referred to as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy involves learning to identify the underlying negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of fear. Once you become better at noticing these thoughts, you can then work on replacing them with more positive, helpful thoughts.
03 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy utilizes rhythmic eye movements to help people process and recover from traumatic experiences. It is frequently used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but can also be effective in the treatment of a variety of other mental health conditions including phobias.