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Fear & Phobias

What is fear?

 

Fear is an emotion that helps you respond to danger and is one of the seven universal emotions. The body goes into a high state of alert, causing the heart to beat rapidly, breathing faster, blood pressure to rise and muscles to tighten. This sudden and severe fear often does not last long and is experienced by everyone around the world. It is a healthy response to imminent danger as it mobilizes us to cope with potential danger. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. There is for example tension which is a lighter form of anxiety or panic which is an amplified form of fear. Fear can lead to panic mode, the reactive part of our brains.

 

Fear arises with the threat of harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological, real or imagined. Fear is a feeling that comes from something that scares you. It is normal to have fears. Often they are even good reactions to certain events. It is normal to be afraid when there is danger, for example in case of violence or a traffic accident. So healthy fear prepares us to respond to real danger. However, fear can become 'unhealthy' and causes you to experience anxiety symptoms or even develop an anxiety disorder. 

 

Anxiety disorder makes you afraid of situations that do not pose any immediate danger. For example, you may panic when you have to give a presentation at work, no longer dare to go outside or spend all nights worrying. In all cases, anxiety disorders are serious symptoms that severely affect the quality of life. An anxiety disorder will eventually make you avoid ordinary situations. Fear controls your life in such a way that living a normal life is difficult. The consequences of an anxiety disorder can be serious, such as isolation and alcohol abuse. 

 

For more information on anxiety disorders click here 

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Fear becomes problematic when:

 

  • It lasts longer than expected based on the reason;

  • It negatively affects functioning.

 

What is 'longer than expected' depends not only on the reason but also on the age. If the anxiety clears up within one or two weeks and does not interfere with normal daily functioning there is no problem or disorder.

 

 

What can cause fear?

These are some of the most common fear triggers:

 

  • Snakes, rodents, spiders and other animals

  • Darkness or loss of visibility of surroundings 

  • Social interaction and/or rejection

  • Heights and flying    

  • Death and dying

How does fear affect my wellbeing?

 

Living under constant threat has serious health consequences. Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated ageing and even premature death.

 

Fear is a common reaction to events or objects. However fear becomes a phobia when it interferes with your ability to function and maintain a consistent quality of life. If you start taking extreme measures to avoid for example water, spiders or people, you may have a phobia. The feeling of fear leads to avoidance behaviour or extreme emotions when you are confronted with it. Unhealthy fear will make you doubt your abilities and possibly cause you to blackout for example while working, during an exam, performing etc. When we can cope with the threat, this lessens or removes the fear. Alternatively, when we are helpless and seemingly can't decrease the threat of harm, this intensifies the fear.

 

What are the effects of fear on your body?

 

When faced with something dangerous, fear puts the body on high alert. This makes it possible to decide whether the danger should be avoided or combated; the so-called flight or fight response. This state of readiness creates all kinds of physical sensations. Think of a faster heartbeat or faster breathing. 

 

Other symptoms of fear that may occur:  

 

  • Stiffening of muscles

  • Blackout

  • Squeezing throat

  •  Hyperventilation

  •  Shaking

  • Nausea

  • Fogginess (can't think clearly)

  •  Excessive sweat

  • Suddenly feeling hot or cold

  •  Headache

  • Dizziness

  •  Upset stomach

  • Distress

  • Tingling

  •  Restlessness

  • Feeling tired

  • Concentration problems

  • Sleep problems

  •  Irritability.

TIPS on how to prevent or ease the symptoms:

 

  1. Eat healthy.

  2. Get enough exercise.

  3. Have a healthy sleep rhythm.

  4. Try to counter irrational thoughts with positive thoughts.

  5. Talk about it with your family, friends or doctor.

  6. Check in with your emotions and how your body feels often. 

  7. Write about how you feel.

  8. Take Yoga or meditation classes.

How to deal with and prevent fear?

 

Fear and also anxiety disorders often give you a feeling of loss of control. As if you are no longer in charge of your body and your own will. As a result, it can often be difficult for some people to ask for help because they feel that they cannot do anything about it. 

There are several techniques for dealing with fear. Therapy can tackle your anxiety symptoms and make you feel in control of your own body again.

 

When should I get help?

 

Sometimes you may feel that "it's not all that bad" or that "everyone suffers from time to time." However, this should not prevent you from dealing with your suffering. Suffering, however small, can have consequences that affect your overall wellbeing. It is helpful to deal with whatever level of suffering, for yourself. Having several conversations with a therapist can already provide sufficient support. This can be done with online treatment, for example. 

 

What are phobias?

 

Most people are sometimes afraid of a large spider or a violent thunderstorm. However, if you constantly have a great fear of certain objects or situations, you may be suffering from a specific phobia.

 

A phobia is an anxiety disorder. With a phobia, you are afraid of places, animals, things or situations without a reason. You may know that this fear is not real, but you still take it into account and try to avoid ending up in such a situation. People with a phobia are afraid of animals, situations or specific things. This fear can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as heavy sweating, palpitations, a feeling of pressure in the chest and feelings of panic. Even though the person knows that their fear is irrational, the fear almost always beats this knowledge. Many people have irrational fears. However, a phobia is only spoken of if the fear seriously interferes with daily life. 

 

There are two types of phobias:

  • Someone with a singular or specific phobia is afraid of one particular thing, animal or situation. This includes fear of spiders, the dentist, fear of heights, but also fear of, for example, white buttons or butterflies.

  • Social anxiety occurs when someone is very afraid of doing things in front of others. The fear of "going off" or being embarrassed is so great that social situations such as giving a presentation or going to an event, are avoided as much as possible. It is also known as Social Anxiety Disorder. 

What is a specific phobia?

 

A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder. With a specific phobia, you have a strong, irrational fear of certain objects, animals or situations. It is a continuous fear. You know that your fear is irrational, yet the fear and panic continues to arise when you are confronted with the object or situation. This particular situation or object triggers fear. You may even become anxious at the thought of it. For example, the idea of ever boarding a plane can cause a deeply anxious feeling.

What types of specific phobias are there?

 

Specific phobias can occur for all situations or objects. Listed below are known forms of specific phobias.

With a specific phobia you may be afraid of:

 

  • Claustrophobia, When you have claustrophobia, you are afraid of becoming trapped or trapped in tight spaces. For example, you do not dare to step into elevators or lock the door of the toilet. The idea that you might not be able to leave the room makes you panic.

  • Animals: for example you are afraid of spiders or snakes. You think these animals will hurt you. This often starts at a young age.

  • Emetophobia, When you suffer from emetophobia, you have an extreme fear of vomiting. Not only are you very afraid of throwing up, but you also have a fear that others will throw up.

  • Nature: you are afraid of thunder or storm, for example. You do not dare to go out and every thunder or lightning scares you. The fear of natural phenomena often starts at a young age.

  • Acrophobia, You have a fear of heights.

  •  Blood / Injections / Injuries: You have a fear of seeing blood and getting injections.

  • Arachnophobia, If you are extremely afraid of spiders, you have arachnophobia. You try to avoid places where you can encounter spiders, such as attics or forests. When you see a spider, you may experience severe fear. You can have a panic attack by seeing the spider or the thought that you might encounter a spider. 

  • Mysophobia or Germaphobia, is the fear of germs and contamination. You are afraid of any microorganism that causes disease — for instance, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. You may feel compelled to excessively wash your hands and to take other precautions against contamination.

  • Hypochondria, you worry excessively about having a serious illness. You live with the fear that you have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with you. 

  • Aviophobia or Aerophobia, you are afraid of flying. Taking a plane flight scares you.

 

Phobia symptoms

 

When you are exposed to your phobia, you can experience heart palpitations, excessive sweating and chest pain. When you are afraid of blood, it often happens that your heart rate drops considerably, your blood pressure drops and you may pass out.

 

A specific phobia is characterized by the following symptoms:

 

  • a clear fear or fear of a specific object or situation

  • the object or situation immediately evokes fear or anxiety

  • the object or situation is consciously avoided or tolerated only with intense fear or apprehension

  • the fear or apprehension is disproportionate to the actual danger

  •  fear or avoidance is long-lasting, usually longer than six months

  •  the person suffers from fear or avoidance or there are limitations in functioning. 

 

What causes phobia?

 

As with many mental illnesses, there is no single identifiable cause for developing a phobia. Sometimes there is not even a clear cause. 

Little research has been done into the biological backgrounds of phobias. From a biological point of view, social phobia is probably very similar to panic disorder.

 

Causes of specific phobia

 

Phobias often develop in your childhood or when you are a young adult. Fear of animals or blood occurs more often at a younger age than fear of certain situations.

It is also possible that you only start to suffer from your phobia at a later age. For example, you had long been troubled by the fear of the elevator, but you have always been able to get by with it, until your work moves to the 20th floor of a building, or it becomes difficult for you to walk and can no longer use the stairs. Then your ordinary, manageable fear suddenly 

becomes a phobia, because it affects your daily life.

 

 Possible risk factors in developing a specific phobia could be because of a traumatic experience or hereditary. Phobias are more common in some families. This may explain that heredity plays a role. The fear of blood, for example, is a fear that is often familial.

How fear is dealt with in your environment can also play a role. It may also be the case that your phobia has (partly) been learned. In your family, there were people with, for example, a fear of flying or small spaces. As a child, you may be able to take over this and also panic in confined spaces.

 

How does phobia manifest itself?

 

  1. The moment you are confronted with your fear, for example when you are in the elevator, you feel very bad. 

  2. The fear can also express itself in a panic attack.

  3. Because you feel very bad when you are confronted with your fear, you are going to avoid things. But this can have negative consequences for you. When you start to avoid certain situations, you may feel that fear is controlling your life. You stay indoors more often and that way miss out on contact with friends and family. 

  4. In severe cases, the specific phobia can also pose a risk of developing depression.

  5. You may be ashamed of your phobia and make excuses to avoid flying or getting on an elevator. 

  6. You can no longer concentrate on your work or your studies.

  7. Because people with social phobia avoid social situations as much as possible, they often suffer more from loneliness and depression. 

 

Symptoms of a phobia

 

The complaints with a phobia are mainly those of the aforementioned panic attack:

 

  • Sweating excessively

  • Palpitations

  • Nausea

  • Dry mouth

  • Losing control

  • Dizziness or falling.

     

 

When should I get help for phobias?

 

When you have a phobia, try to avoid situations or objects that trigger the fear. But phobias can still hinder your daily life. For example, you are less likely to go out or you are ashamed of your phobia. However, a specific phobia is treatable. Don't keep walking around with your phobia. It's important to seek help and treat your phobia. You don't have to solve it alone. The following tips may help you cope with a phobia.

 

Tips for specific phobias:

 

  • Look at the effect of the fear on your life, try to be honest and don't tone down your phobia.

  • Seek support and discuss your fears with your friends or family. You don't have to be ashamed of it.

  • Don't avoid situations that trigger fear. Try to handle these situations correctly, eventually, your fear will decrease because of this.

  • Write in a journal about how you feel when you are confronted with your fear. You can also write down what you are doing to overcome the fear. 

  • Seek (professional) help.

 

How can I be helped?

 

Always consult your primary care physician first. You can come to us for yourself or if you are concerned about a family member, friend or acquaintance. When you need help it can sometimes be difficult to find it. 

 

 

Can a phobia be treated?

Whatever the cause of your phobia, it is important to seek help. A specific phobia can be treated well. 

 

 

What can we do for you?

 

At Luminous Transformational Coaching, we can teach you how to deal with phobia. In our sessions, the focus will be on changing your anxious thoughts and the goal is to gain insight into your thought pattern. We first determine where your fear lies and what the cause is, to get started with your therapy sessions. Therapy often has a positive effect and reduces your existing fear. Together we can determine what the best help is for you. 

 

 

We offer our services to provide you with the tools and tips to help you thrive beyond your fears. The goal of our sessions would be to help you face your fear and/or phobia, teach you to get used to the fear and deal with anxious situations by thinking differently about them. The methods we use are designed to help you connect to your mental, emotional, and spiritual self.

 

If traditional counselling didn't work for you or you would like an an alternative method, reach out to us for your first discovery session of 30-minutes for free. 

 

Start your healing process today!