Fears are our in-built way of keeping us safe – they remind us that certain things, such as snakes, can be dangerous, so we give them a wide berth and stay alive.
However, sometimes we develop an intense fear of an object or situation that prevents us from carrying on with life on a day-to-day basis.
Symptoms of fear and phobiaThere are many symptoms associated with intense fears and phobias, such as shaking; feeling confused/disoriented; sweating; feeling sick and dizzy; rapid heart beats; chest pains; a dry mouth; and difficulty breathing. Some sufferers may also fear losing control, fainting or dying. These symptoms are commonly experienced by those with anxieties such as fear and phobias.
Common fear and phobiasPeople fear all sorts of things, however there are some more common ones. These include public speaking, animals, flying, open spaces, enclosed spaces, the dark, heights, being ill. While some objects of fear may be things we rarely encounter, such as bats and clowns, often people fear things that are impossible to avoid, such as open spaces and spiders.
Should I do anything about my fear?If your fear is so intense that it is preventing you from living your life, then the answer is yes. For example, if you are unable to get on a train, and this is by far the most convenient way to get to work, then your fear is causing you problems and you would be advised to take action.
Professional helpDesensitisation: In order to tackle your fear you will need to come face to face with it. One popular approach is called desensitisation, which is commonly associated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Desensitisation is a staged process, so you can get used to the object of your fear before facing it head on. It involves slow, controlled exposure to the object or situation of fear so that over time you feel more comfortable with it. Desensitisation is best carried out in consultation with a trained professional in this area.
Talking therapies: may also be helpful for getting to the bottom of why you have the fear.
Self help: There are many things you can do to help with your fear:
- Try to imagine the worst that could happen if your fears were realised.
- Talk to friends and family and allow them to understand what you are experiencing.
- Learn some relaxation techniques. Often people report their fears increase when they are stressed or anxious so taking time to relax can really help particularly if you are experiencing physical symptoms.
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. This will help aid relaxation and can also improve some of the physical symptoms of fear.
- Download and read our free 16 page booklet 'Understanding Phobias' to further understands why people have phobias and ways that they can be treated.
- Websites and self help books can be a helpful way of getting started on tackling a phobia. http://www.nopanic.org.uk is a good website for panic and anxiety related issues.