This Is The Potential Reasoning Behind Your Severe Phobia

Unsplash/Ivan Karasev

Does the sight of a spider make you feel like you have bugs crawling all over your body and that you need to take a shower immediately? Do the sounds of the dentist chair leave you putting off your six-month cleaning appointment for years at a time? If so, you might be one of the 19 million Americans who struggles with a phobia.

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, and it’s actually the most common type of anxiety order diagnosed and treated in the mental health space today. Most of them don’t require a formal diagnosis, though, because it’s pretty easy to tell if you have one. And while some people might just struggle with the occasional confrontation with their mild phobia, others find them entirely paralyzing.

Before digging into the causes of these phobias, let’s outline the clear difference between fear and a phobia. While fear is a more general unpleasant emotion brought on by a (potentially) dangerous, painful or threatening situation, a phobia is a fear so overwhelming and debilitating that contact with the place or thing that catalyzes your fear inhibits you from functioning normally. Being afraid of snakes and having a snake phobia are not even remotely in the same ballpark.

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Phobias can manifest in two forms: specific or simple, and complex. Specific or simple phobias revolve around certain objects, animals, situations or activities, and these are typically developed during childhood and early adolescence. Think fear of rats, heights, deep water, flying and needles. Complex phobias, on the other hand, are connected to particular situations or circumstances, and they are usually developed during adulthood by the age of 30. Agoraphobia (fear of being in a space where you can’t escape) and social phobia (social anxiety disorder) are the two most common examples, and they can be incredibly disabling.

Besides the phase of life in which they arise, phobias typically occur for one of three reasons. First, you could have experienced a scary, stressful and/or traumatic event as a child connected to your phobia — even if you don’t remember it. Second, phobias can be learned from others around you like family members or close friends. So if your brother hyperventilates every time he has to step foot in an airport, travel anxiety might be something that affects you, too. And third, having highly anxious parents can genetically predispose you to anxious behaviors as well. That last one is typically most connected to complex phobias.

So long as pondering your phobia’s existence doesn’t exacerbate your anxiety, consider taking some time to reflect and see if you can pinpoint a potential origin of your extreme fear. Which of those three categories do you think it falls under? Being able to answer that constant question, “Why am I this way?” might bring you some solace and even validate your strange behaviors to a degree.

From there, if your phobia truly seems to run your life, consider seeking counsel from a psychologist who has a strong background in behavioral therapy. It’s never a bad idea to try and work on the things that currently bring you pain rather than just slogging your way through the daily struggle. And remember — you’re definitely not alone in the battle against your phobia.