If you come near to, or in contact with, the feared situation you become anxious or distressed. In addition you may also have one or more unpleasant physical symptoms. For example: a fast heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, a 'knot in the stomach', fast breathing.

There are different types of phobia
  • Social phobia
  • Social phobia is possibly the most common phobia. With social phobia you become very anxious about what other people may think of you, or how they may judge you. Therefore, you fear meeting people, or 'performing' in front of other people, especially strangers. You fear that you will act in an embarrassing or humiliating way, and that other people will think unflatteringly of you.

  • Agoraphobia
  • You may have a fear of:

    • Entering shops, crowds, and public places.
    • Travelling in trains, buses, or planes.
    • Being on a bridge or in a lift.
    • Being in a cinema, restaurant, etc, where there is no easy exit.

    But they all stem from one underlying fear. That is, a fear of being in a place where help will not be available, or where you feel it may be difficult to escape to a safe place (usually to your home).

Other specific phobias

There are many other phobias of a specific thing or situation. For example: claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces or of being trapped); fear of certain animals; fear of injections or needles; fear of vomiting; fear of being alone; fear of choking; fear of the dentist; fear of flying; however, there are many others, some quite rare.

What is the treatment for phobias?

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to change certain ways that you think, feel and behave. It is a useful treatment for various mental health problems, including phobias. CBT is usually done in weekly sessions of about 50 minutes each, for several weeks. You have to take an active part, and are given homework between sessions. For example, you may be asked to keep a diary of your thoughts which occur when you become anxious.

Antidepressant medicines

These are commonly used to treat depression, but they also help to reduce the symptoms of phobias (particularly agoraphobia and social phobia), even if you are not depressed. They work by interfering with brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin which may be involved in causing anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants do not work straight away. It takes 2-4 weeks before their effect builds up.

Benzodiazepines such as diazepam

These medicines are sometimes called minor tranquilisers. They work well to ease symptoms of anxiety. The problem is, they are addictive and can lose their effect if you take them for more than a few weeks. They may also make you drowsy.

Alphabetical Index of Health Topics

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