We have discussed panic attacks in a previous post. In this post we will offer some insights into the origin and treatment of phobias, a common disorder.
The Mayo Clinic defines phobia as “an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.”
We are all familiar with people who have a fear of heights, or of cats, or open spaces or crowds.
Most phobias are “irrational” (having no basis in our current reality). Varying by degree, such a fear may produce a generalized anxiety or may at times affect our behavior to the point of paralysis. It is when avoidance of a situation drastically affects our social interaction and well being that action must be taken.
It is now theorized that some phobias may be genetic or ancestral in nature, due to chemical changes in DNA when confronted with a traumatic incident. Some more esoteric researchers who believe in reincarnation are also exploring the possibility of soul memory – bringing a fear that built up in another lifetime into this lifetime.
An interesting therapeutic perspective is the use of mindfulness as a treatment for phobia. Because most of the fear felt is the result of conscious thought about the fear-provoking situation (“I can’t leave the house or I’ll have a panic attack and lose it.”), it may be that our anticipation is the culprit. Mindfulness can teach that the thoughts and fears can be accepted without judgment, now in this present moment, and this lack of judgement can break the cycle of fear.
Regardless of their origin, treatment of phobias can be similar to treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, with somatic therapies being especially effective. Gradual exposure to the fearful situation (desensitization), relaxation, breathing techniques, cognitive therapies, and biofeedback can all be used to reduce the intensity of reaction to the feared situation. With the correct combination of treatment, the sufferer can overcome his or her phobia and live a normal life.