Understanding Fear – What are Phobias and How Common Are They?
What are phobias? Well, in a psychological context, they are a persistent fear of objects, animals or situations, which a person will go to great lengths to avoid. While some of us dislike spiders, some affected by arachnophobia – the fear of spiders – will be terrified by them to the point where they may, for example, not be able to leave their homes if one spins their web on their doorstep.
People who don’t suffer from phobias may find it difficult to understand the real distress that those people experience, and somewhat underestimate how it impairs their everyday routine. But imagine what life would be like if you had agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces, and couldn’t leave your home; or couldn’t bear to touch anything you hadn’t disinfected, or be touched by anything or anyone because you suffered from bacteriaphobia, the fear of germs and bacteria? Or what if you struggled speaking to people and suffered from social phobia every day?
To expand on the idea, I’ve decided to share the infographic below that shows the top 10 most common phobias, categories, and what causes distress:
Phobias fall into several, groups, but all lead to developing avoidance behavior towards the object or situation feared:
- Specific phobias, connected to a specific situation or object, such as fear of flying, heights, water, which usually develop during childhood around the age of 7.
- Social phobias include conditions such as social anxiety disorder, characterized by a fear of being watched and judged by others, and they express themselves through a various degrees of stress in social situations. Being the center of attention, making phone calls (phone phobia), having to be social at a party, or any events involving groups of people (such as going to a prom), all these are the fabric of nightmare for people suffering from social phobias, often leaving them feeling isolated and depressed.
The onset of this type of phobia is usually at puberty, when teenagers are about 13.
- Agoraphobia and claustrophobia are fears relating to space. The former makes it difficult to cope in open spaces, while the latter, at the other end of the spectrum, can cause panic attacks when a person is in a confined space such as an elevator or a plane for example. This disorder usually appears in someone’s early twenties.
There are many phobias, some seeming more harmless than others, but it is important to remember that, from the point of view of the person affected, they are very real obstacles that they need to overcome every day to carry on with their life.
So how do you cope with phobias in your life? I’d love to hear from you.
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