A phobia is an extreme fear of something that can get in the way of daily life. Most people understand of what phobia means, though the term can often be thrown around. Phobias are irrational and can be obsessive. A phobia may cause somebody to have regular nightmares or show avoidance behaviour. For example, in our short case study on phobias, Rita is afraid of birds and this prevents her from going outside unless she knows she's going to be under some kind of shelter that would protect her completely from the birds. She is uncomfortable at the sight of a bird, even seeing photos of them.
Phobias come with a lot of the physical symptoms that come with anxiety. Having said this, the symptoms are less likely to be constant with a phobia, depending on what the phobia is. Physical symptoms of anxiety are trembling, sweating, clammy hands, palpitations, and shortness of breath. Headaches are also a common symptom. Somebody who is agoraphobic may experience these symptoms at the thought of leaving their house, and it would be similar for somebody who is arachnophobic at the sight or thought of a spider.
To somebody that has a phobia, it may seem completely impossible to make it go away. There may be a specific event in the past linked to their phobia, or it may have no specific reason behind it at all. However, it is possible to treat phobias. For a severe phobia, anti-depressants may be prescribed for use during treatment to make confronting their fearless anxiety inducing. Talking and exposure therapies are very useful kinds of therapies for treating phobias.
In our programme, “Phobia: A Case Study”, Rita has a phobia of birds. Her journey through her treatment is documented. It begins with a consultation with a psychologist who discusses her fear of birds, why she is afraid, her childhood. Rita mentions that her father had pet crows, and he used to let them attack her. She becomes very visibly uncomfortable as she is discussing this.
Then, Rita begins her therapy, which aims to gradually expose her to her fear and reduce the anxiety around birds as time goes on. The therapist starts by showing her a photo of a bird, getting her to look at it for a few minutes. Then she has to touch the photo. The next step is to show Rita a feather, and eventually get her to hold the feather. As the therapy progresses, Rita is told to stand in a garden. A bird lands a short distance away from her and she begins to experience the anxiety. As she stands there for longer, her anxiety reduces a small amount. The last step is for her to hold a bird, and she manages to do it. If, in the beginning, she had been expected to do this, the therapy wouldn't have worked. It's important that the exposure to the fear is gradual, otherwise, anxiety around the object, animal or activity may worsen.
Category: Social Innovation