Phobias, which stem from anxiety disorders, can take many forms and are associated with intense fear. This fear can lead to unrelenting anxiety that hinders the ability to live a normal life. Phobias can be crippling and are often irrational. They spark an abnormal fear response to an object or situation that, in reality, is not dangerous.The American Psychological Association identifies a malfunction in part of the brain called the amygdala as a possible cause of debilitating phobias. In fact, researchers have found that the amygdala responds to fear-inducing images.

Types of phobias

Some of the most common phobias include acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), trypanophobia (fear of needles) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). In severe cases, phobias interfere with social relationships and the ability to perform work tasks. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people can develop a phobia at any point during their life – even to activities that previously caused no worry. Just thinking about their fear can impact self-esteem and the ability to live a normal life.

Coping with phobias

In terms of coping with phobias, the most common reactions are avoidance and escape. Most people with a phobia will go to extreme lengths to avoid things they know will trigger fear. If the negative stimuli cannot be escaped, the person will likely react with panic. This may take the form of shaking, difficulty breathing and an accelerated heartbeat. Treating phobias often involve behavioral therapy, medication or a mix of both. According to the American Psychiatry Association, cognitive behavioral therapy involves confronting the fear in a carefully planned, gradual way. While phobias/triggers are unique to each individual, some are more common than others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19.2 million people in the United States suffer from a specific phobia.    

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