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    What is a Phobia

    Phobias and anxiety disorders are the most prominent mental health problems in the United States. Women report more phobias than men. However, men are less likely to seek mental health assistance, so this statistic is a bit flawed and more research needs to be done in evaluating the correlation between gender and phobias. Phobias have gotten some serious attention with the desire to find more information about agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving a safe place.

    A true phobia is an overwhelming, persistent and unreasonable debilitating fear of an object or situation that poses little risk to the average person. This phobia is irrational and exhibits itself quite prominently. This fear causes much physical and emotional stress. Many times the phobia can even inhibit
    your daily activities. Sometimes the fears can be explained, such as a person who is immensely afraid of dogs after they have been bitten by a dog. In this situation, the phobia is quite understandable, yet, can be quite acute. However, many fears are not grounded in rationality and have no basis for their existence. Some people are afraid of certain objects such as hydrophobia (the fear of water), Aichmophobia (the fear of needles or pointed objects) or Ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes). Other people are afraid of “doing” certain things; such as Phalacrophobia (the fear of becoming bald) or Glossophobia (the fear of speaking in public).

    Fear is an emotion that is built into our system to warn us about dangerous objects and events. Fear, itself, is helpful for our survival. It is when that fear is irrational or hinders our daily routine and/or success, does it manifest as a phobia. A fear is only a phobia when it disrupts your daily activities in such a way that it renders you incapable of functioning. While you might have a fear of heights, if you can successfully avoid or withstand it without going through major physical and psychological changes, then, you are experiencing a “fear,” and not a “phobia. “Not all phobias require treatment. And, not all people want treatment for their phobias. No matter what type of phobia you have, in order for it to truly be called as such, you must exhibit some of the following reactions when the fear is present: A feeling of uncontrollable anxiety, elevated breathing and heart rate, The feeling that you must do everything possible to avoid what you fear, the inability to think clearly about your phobia or anything else while the object of your phobia is present and the inability to control your reactions and increasing feelings of panic.

    If a phobia affects your daily life and you seek treatment, there are a number of ways that therapists can assist you in overcoming your fear. None of
    these treatments involve amercing the person in their fear until they overcome it. This just causes more anxiety and is quite dangerous for the client. However, I will admit that early psychiatrists have experimented with this exact method for a cure to phobia and anxiety disorders. There are usually visualization techniques, accompanied by counseling and support to assist you in managing your phobia. This also involves learning new habits to lessen the anxiety. Many of these techniques involve slowly dismantling your anxiety and restoring your power over the situation. There are medications that can be taken to lessen anxiety and the physical symptoms when a person is in the midst of experiencing his/her phobia. These can only be prescribed by a psychiatrist.

    I am not demeaning those with phobias and admit that having a phobia is definitely debilitating. However, while perusing the list of phobias, I must confess to having a chuckle at all of the ones listed. I believe that psychologists and psychiatrists might have their own “phobia,” because they seem to want to put a label on almost every fear. I do not want to offend anyone with severe phobias, however, I do wonder if any of these phobias have actually been diagnosed in people. Here are some examples.

    People who are stressed in school might have Epistemophobia (the fear of knowledge) or Scolionophobia (the fear of school) or Sophophobia (the fear of learning). Now, every child has a reason why he/she does not want to attend school. Be careful about telling your child about this one, he/she might actually make it believable.

    A man who does not want to commit to marriage might be experiencing Philophobia (the fear of falling in love) and Gamophobia (the fear of marriage.) These two phobias would compliment his Soteriophobia (the fear of dependence on others). With his luck, he will be dating a woman with Autophobia (the fear of being alone or of oneself. and Anuptaphobia (the fear of staying single). But, if she is also experiencing androphobia (The fear of men) and/or heterophobia (The fear of the opposite sex), then, I doubt that even the most skilled psychiatrist could assist them in having a successful relationship. Yes, women, just to balance things out, according to the psychiatrists, there are men who have gynophobia (fhe fear of women).

    The next time that my seventy-eight year-old technologically challenged grandmother goes to the doctor with her littany of complaints, she can pronounce proudly that she has: Cyberphobia (the fear of computers or working on a computer), Cenophobia or Centophobia (the fear of new things or ideas) and Prosophobia (the fear of progress).

    If my brother-in-law could be diagnosed with Decidophobia (the fear of making decisions), Hypengyophobia or Hypegiaphobia (the fear of responsibility)
    and Ergophobia (The Fear of work); he might be able to receive a check for disability instead of unemployment. If he doesn’t get the right treatment, he can always self medicate, as long as he doesn’t have Methyphobia (A fear of alcohol).

    Lest anyone think that I, myself am immune, I will admit that in certain situations, I am plagued with Harpaxophobia (the fear of being robbed) and because I am trying to be brutally honest, I must admit to having a strong case of Virginitiphobia (the fear of rape). Which, in the right situation could expose my Cypriphobia or Cyprinophobia (the fear of a venereal disease). I hope that the admission of my various phobias does not give anyone the idea the that I am unstable.

    I have noticed that I am not alone in my list of phobias. Most of the American population has Xenophobia (the fear of foreigners) as well as Xenoglossophobia (which is the fear of foreign languages). With all of these phobias, though, I have not seen a “Race-ophobia,” “muslim-ophobia,” and my personal favorite “Barack-ophobia.” However, I am certain that these exist and are much more prominent than any that I have mentioned in this article. I guess we know which particular phobias that the experts have!


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