A phobia is a strong irrational fear of anything, and is a very common problem. We all feel fear occasionally, but in a phobia this fear is out of all proportion to the danger.
There are three main kinds of phobias: simple phobia, agoraphobia, and social phobia. Simple phobias are brought on by something specific, like spiders, mice, flying, or heights. Agoraphobia is massive panic that happens whenever the person leaves their home. Many agoraphobics stop going out to avoid these unpleasant feelings, and can end up housebound. Social phobia includes the fear of being looked at or watched, and people with this problem often avoid social situations such as canteens, meetings and restaurants.
When do you need to get help?
It may be possible to put up with some phobias, but if it starts to interfere with your quality of life, it's time to get help. Your GP will give you information and advice. It's good to tell family or a friend too, to get their help and support.
What help is available?
Sometimes a good chat with the doctor or nurse will be reassuring, and all that you need. If the phobia is more disabling, you need more help. Psychotherapy (talking therapy) may help you to express and explore some of the feeling and fears that are part of the problem. Behaviour therapy works well for lots of people, with its combination of relaxation techniques, ways to cope with fear and panic, and a step-by-step programme encouraging a slow return to the frightening situation.
Will I need to take medication?
Drugs can never cure phobias. They may be given for a short period of time in extreme situations, to give the sufferer a chance to begin sorting themselves out. The two main kinds of drugs that may be prescribed are benzodiazepines (like Valium), and beta-blockers. Asthmatics should never take beta-blockers.
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