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Монографии, изданные в издательстве Российской Академии Естествознания

Phobias

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. For example, those suffering from agoraphobia fear being trapped in an inescapable place or situation.

Symptoms of Phobias

Phobic symptoms can occur through exposure to the fear object or situation, or sometimes simply thinking about the feared object can lead to a response. Common symptoms associated with phobias include: Dizziness; Breathlessness; Nausea; A sense of unreality; Fear of dying

In some cases, these symptoms can escalate into a full-scale anxiety attack. As a consequence of these symptoms, some individuals begin to isolate themselves, leading to severe difficulties in daily life. In other cases, the individual may seek out medical care due to a constant concern with imagined illnesses or imminent death.

Types of Phobias

There are three types of phobias:

1. Social phobias – fear of social situations.

2. Agoraphobia – fear of being trapped in an inescapable place or situation.

3. Specific phobias – fear of a specific object (such as snakes).

There are four major types of specific phobias:

1. The natural environment – fear of lighthning, water, storms, etc.

2. Animal – fear of snakes, rodents, spiders, etc.

3. Medical – fear of seeing blood, receiving injections, visiting a doctor, etc.

4. Situational – fear of bridges, leaving the home, driving, etc.

Prevalence of Phobias

Phobias are actually quite common, affecting more than 10 % of the U.S. population. Phobias are the most common mental disorder in the United States, but far more women than men are affected by phobias. In many cases, people are able to recognize that their fear is irrational and therefore take steps to overcome their phobia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, only about 10 percent of reported cases become life-long phobias.

Common Symptoms

Phobias can be divided into three types: specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia. Although the symptoms of each type will vary, there are some symptoms common to all phobias. These include:

Terror: A persistent and overwhelming fear of the object or situation.

Physical Symptoms: Dizziness, shaking, palpitations.

Obsessive Thoughts: Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear.

Desire to Flee: An intense instinct to leave the situation.

Anticipatory Anxiety: Persistent worrying about upcoming events that involve the phobic object or situation.

Medical causes of phobia symptoms

Phobias can be tricky to diagnose, as some physical illnesses can cause symptoms that are very similar to those of a phobia. For example, an allergic reaction to medication can cause sweating, palpitations and other anxiety symptoms. The same symptoms could also be caused by an undiagnosed heart condition.

Most of the time, physical illness causes more generalized symptoms of anxiety rather than those that are linked to a specified phobia. However, this is not always the case. Here are a few examples of times when the symptoms of physical illness and phobias may be closely linked.

Fear of Showing Symptoms of an Existing Illness

Many physical illnesses cause symptoms that may be viewed as abnormal or embarrassing. One such example is Parkinson’s disease, which can cause tremors and other muscular symptoms.

It is natural for people suffering from such disorders to exhibit fear of their symptoms being noticed in public. If the fear becomes overwhelming and the sufferer limits his or her activities because of the fear (not the disease itself), then it may be diagnosed as a phobia.

Physical Illnesses That Cause Specific Phobias

A few physical illnesses can cause symptoms of specific phobias. Examples include:

- Photophobia: Aversion to light. Photophobia is a common symptom of several illnesses including meningitis and certain eye infections or injuries. If photophobia symptoms develop, it is important to rule out possible eye conditions. 

- Phonophobia: Fear of loud sounds. Phonophobia may be caused by hyperacusis, which is a physical condition that causes extreme sensitivity to sound. 

- Osmophobia: Aversion to odors. This phobia is often seen in migraine sufferers who have experienced odor-induced migraines. 

- Hydrophobia: Often confused with aquaphobia (fear of bodies of water), hydrophobia is a specific phobia of drinking water or other fluids. It is a late-stage symptom of rabies.

Only a trained medical professional can distinguish phobias from physical illnesses. If you are experiencing the symptoms of a phobia, please make an appointment with your health care provider.

Treatments for Phobias

There are a number of treatment approaches for phobias. The effectiveness of a treatment depends on the individual and the type of phobia. These are just a few potential phobia treatments:

In exposure treatments, the patient is exposed to the fear object in order to help them overcome their fear. One type of exposure treatment is flooding, in which the patient is confronted by the fear object for an extended length of time without the opportunity to escape. The goal of this method is to help the individual face their fear and realize that the fear object
will not harm them.

Another method often used in phobia treatment is counter-conditioning. In this method, the patient is taught a new response to the fear object. Rather that panic in the face of the feared object or situation, the client learns relaxation techniques to replace anxiety and fear. This new behavior is incompatible with the previous panicked response, so the phobic response gradually fades. Counter-conditioning is often used with patients who are unable to handle exposure treatments.

Match the terms and definitions

phobia

an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object

To overcome

to surmount (obstacles, objections, etc.)

lifelong

lasting for or as if for a lifetime

irrational

inconsistent with reason or logic; illogical; absurd

agoraphobia

a pathological fear of being in public places, often resulting in the sufferer becoming housebound

tremor

an involuntary shudder or vibration, as from illness, fear, shock, etc

rabies

an acute infectious viral disease of the nervous system transmitted by the saliva of infected animals, esp dogs. It is characterized by excessive salivation, aversion to water, convulsions, and paralysis

palpitation

An abnormality of heartbeat characterized by simultaneous awareness of one’s pulse and discomfort

dizziness

Felling faint or lightheaded, feeling weak and unsteady

Counter-conditioning

A type of therapy based on the principles of classical conditioning that attempts to replace bad or unpleasant emotional responses to a stimulus with more pleasant, adaptive responses

Flooding

a method of eliminating anxiety in a given situation, by exposing a person to the situation until the anxiety subsides

Fill in the gaps with the appropriate words

physical illnesses; phobic symptoms; counter-conditioning; overcome; exposure treatments; life-long;

1. In ..., the patient is taught a new response to the fear object.

2. In ... ..., the patient is exposed to the fear object in order to help them overcome their fear.

3. In many cases, people are able to recognize that their fear is irrational and therefore take steps to ... their phobia.

4. A few ... ... can cause symptoms of specific phobias.

5. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, only about 10 percent of reported cases become ... phobias.

6. ... .... can occur through exposure to the fear object or situation, or sometimes simply thinking about the feared object can lead to a response.

Fill in the table

symptom

disorder

Agoraphobia, tremor, rabies, meningitis, nausea, dizziness, palpitation, breathlessness


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