Phobias

Description: An irrational, intense, persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, or people. It is type of an anxiety disorder and can be divided into 3 types: social phobia, specific phobias, and agoraphobia.

Persons most commonly affected: Most anxiety disorders appear earlier in life. Specific phobia has a female-to-male ratio of 2:1. Social phobia is more common in women, but more men seek treatment due to career issues and Agoraphobia has a female-to-male ratio of 2-3:1.

Symptoms and indications: Excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. If they cannot, they may experience panic and fear, rapid heartbeat,shortness of breath, feeling confused or disoriented, dry mouth, intense sweating, dizziness, chest pain and trembling.

In extreme cases, especially if you have a complex phobia, you may experience the above symptoms as well as a fear of losing control, a fear of fainting, or a fear of dying.

Causes and risk factors: Phobias usually develop in late childhood, adolescence, or early adult life in response to a frightening event or situation. However, it is not always clear where phobias come from.

The cause of simple phobias is not always known. Occasionally a simple phobia can be traced to an earlier experience. For example, a child being trapped in an enclosed confined space may develop claustrophobia when they are older.

Sometimes, certain phobias, such as a fear of spiders, run in families. This is probably because children learn to fear, rather than inherit the phobia from a family member.

The causes of complex phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia, are unclear. Social phobias may begin due to an anxious and intense experience in a social situation. Or it may be that your social confidence did not have the chance to fully develop past the normal stage of shyness of a young child.

Prevention: There is no way to prevent a phobia from starting. However, if you already have a phobia or any other anxiety disorder, you may be able to reduce your anxiety levels by avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine (in coffee, tea and cola drinks), chocolate and nicotine (in tobacco).

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