Every Halloween, we celebrate our love of being scared — from cackling witches to creepy crawlies. We dress in spooky costumes, double down on watching horror movies, and even pay a visit to haunted houses and zombie hayrides in our neck of the woods. While nearly everyone enjoys a bit of fearful fun in a controlled, pretend environment, phobias take being afraid to the next level. A form of anxiety disorders, phobias involve lasting, intense, and often irrational fears that can disrupt lives and relationships.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) groups phobias into three main categories:
Agoraphobia — the extreme fear of being unable to get help or escape a place or situation forces many agoraphobics to remain at home.
Social Phobia — goes beyond shyness and self-consciousness to a profound fear of being around other people and social situations
Specific Phobia — involves an unreasonable fear of an object or situation that is out of proportion to the actual danger.
What scares us the most?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), nearly one in 10 American adults has a specific phobia. The APA recognizes more than 100 specific phobias; here are some of the most familiar ones:
- Acrophobia — fear of heights
- Ailurophobia — fear of cats
- Aquaphobia — fear of water
- Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
- Astraphobia — fear of thunder and lightening
- Aviophobia — fear of flying
- Claustrophobia — fear of enclosed spaces
- Hemophobia — fear of blood
- Msyophobia – fear of germs and contamination
- Ochlophobia — fear of crowds
Is it time to get help?
The good news is that with professional help, it’s usually possible to cope with phobias. One of the most effective treatments is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Desensitization, certain medications and other therapies are also valuable.
If a phobia is impacting your life and relationships, ask your family doctor for help in identifying a therapist specializing in anxiety disorders or visit Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.