This is the 15th in a series of blogs, using answers I used to pass Mental Health qualifications.  This blog leads on from the Anxiety series and helps people have some understanding of how phobias effect people.

The next blog will give some idea of how phobias can be managed.

As with many mental health subjects, they can all be massive topics with reams of books written on them.  I will aim to break phobias down into 4 easily read blogs, describing what they are, the effects they have on people and how they can be treated and managed. 

I strongly believe there is no one-size-fits all approach to managing any kind of mental health condition, the main reasons why I’m not a massive advocate of medication.  I prefer to consider natural, healthy ways to recognise and manage any kind of mental ill health, tailoring each treatment and therapy to suit each individual.

Phobias are about intense fear which produce physical and psychological feelings.

The feelings an individual may have when experiencing a phobia:

The feelings experienced can vary from being slightly nervous to the opposite extreme of having a full-blown anxiety or panic attack.
A feeling could be positive in one of heightened awareness.
On the whole though, as phobias are a negative thing, the feelings can be very similar to that of anxiety in that people can start to feel hot, clammy and sweaty. Slight nervousness of butterflies in the stomach could be experienced but the more extreme could be digestive problems, stomach cramps or needing to go to the toilet. Slight to extreme shaking could happen along with feeling weak or giddy. An increase in heart rate, pulse and shortness of breath can also exaggerate all the symptoms as anxiety will heighten the feelings.

How a specific phobia could prevent someone from leading a normal life, considering the impact a phobia could have on day to day living:

I think agoraphobia could be considered to be one of the most debilitating to a quality of life.
People tend to think agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces but it can be more complex than that. It is considered to be a fear of places or situations that someone cannot easily extract themselves from. Agoraphobia could stem from school and being in a social situation that causes some sort of embarrassment or an anxiety or panic attack.
People with agoraphobia could start to avoid situations like using public transport or going shopping. This situation may not have been helped by online shopping as it makes it easier for the person to not face their fears and help towards isolation.
Not being able to face public transport or unknown spaces may make it difficult for people to attend a workplace, especially one where they have to mix with other people.
To not face the fear, people could avoid all the situations, ie not travelling, not shopping, not mixing in a workplace, which can cause isolation to the point where they may end up not leaving their home at all. These causes further isolation and loneliness which can lead to other mental health concerns such as depression.  This can all contribute to preventing someone leading a normal life.

It may be difficult to define what a normal life is for someone living with a phobia every day, because this may well become their norm.  ‘Normal’ is defined as “conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model or pattern” (Collins Dictionary).  In this case, it is the norms of society; taking part in our community, going to work and building relationships.  Where a person is unable to do so, then they are being prevented to do so by the symptoms of their phobia.

A wide range of feelings can be experienced.  A phobia is a fear of fear because the individual is not really frightened of any particular place or situation but are frightened of the feelings they get when they are in those places or situations.  They know there is no real physical danger but are unable to totally convince themselves that everything will be perfectly safe.

How a person’s phobia may affect others:

As with anxiety and other stress-related conditions, the effect on other people can be due to their lack of understanding of the situation and how the person is suffering and feeling. There is frustration which can lead to conflicts and arguments.
If someone has to care for and help someone else, they can find themselves being resentful and angry, which can lead to their own feelings of feeling guilty and inadequate for thinking and behaving like that.
If the phobia inhibits a quality of life in some way, especially with social situations, others may ‘give up’ asking them to situations and isolate themselves thinking or believing is it what the other person wants, or doesn’t care.
In the end, the variety of relationships available to a person can break down.

In the next blog, we consider how phobias can be managed.                                                                                                       

Tracey of PlumEssence Therapies and Training is a qualified stress management consultant, mental health first aider, clinical hypnotherapist and body work therapist focusing on helping reduce and alleviate concerns connected to both physical and emotional wellbeing.  Tracey is also a teacher and trainer, delivering workshops and accredited mental health courses.

Tracey is available for a no-obligation chat to see how we could work together on 01889 808388 or [email protected]

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