A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Phobias: Phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object, a place, an animal, a feeling or situation that poses little real danger. Unlike the brief anxiety most people feel when they give a speech or take a test, a phobia is long-lasting, causes intense physical and psychological reactions and can affect your ability to function normally at work or in social settings.

Several types of phobias exist. Some people fear large open spaces. Others are unable to tolerate certain social situations. Many people have a specific phobia such as a fear of snakes, elevators or flying. Not all phobias need treatment, but if a phobia affects your daily lives, a number of therapies are available that can help you overcome your fears.

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. You may not experience any symptoms until you come into contact with the source of your phobia.
However, in some cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make a person feel anxious or panicky. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.

If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause them considerable anguish.
Symptoms may include:
  •     unsteadiness, dizziness and lightheadedness
  •     nausea
  •     sweating
  •     increased heart rate or palpitations
  •     shortness of breath
  •     trembling or shaking
  •     an upset stomach
If you don't come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life. However, if you have a complex phobia such as agoraphobia, leading a normal life may be very difficult.

If you have a phobia you should seek help from your doctor, who may refer you to a specialist with expertise in behavioural therapy, such as a psychologist.

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