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What are Phobias?
We all experience anxiety and fear with certain things in our lives. For example, we might have a fear of driving over a bridge or in a tunnel but we manage our anxiety. Phobias are different. The fear and anxiety levels are persistent, intense, and often overwhelming to the extent that we begin to avoid exposure to the object or situation. A phobia is an excessive level of fear association with an object, a situation, or an experience of something which ordinarily poses no real threat.
Individuals who suffer from phobias may also encounter their intense anxiety symptoms just by anticipating or thinking about the object or situation of their fear. Phobias can be very specific such as spiders, elevators, or flying in an airplane. Phobias can also be situational, such as phobias of social interaction.
Phobias can impair normal daily functioning at home, work, or school and may cause relationship issues as well. Self-esteem and self-confidence may be affected by the necessity to avoid situations or objects that trigger overwhelming levels of anxiety.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 5% - 12% of the population in the United States have phobias. They are the most common type of Anxiety Disorder. Specific phobias are estimated to affect 19 million adults in our country. The exact cause of phobias is not know; however, genetics, brain chemistry, and traumatic events are believed to be significant contributors.
Typically, treatment consists of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) Therapy. Through very slow and repeated exposure to the feared object or situation, ERP helps the individual sufferer learn tools and techniques for managing anxiety levels. CBT helps an individual become aware of their thoughts and how their thoughts affect their actions or behaviors. By examining thoughts and beliefs, an individual can work toward changing their thought patterns and, ultimately, the behavior associated with those thought patterns.
We have provided a series of materials below that you may find helpful in seeking general information. For specific information about your situation, please seek the assistance of a licensed professional therapist who specializes in Anxiety Disorders.
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