Phobic Disorder – What Is It And What Do I Do About It?

Phobic disorder is defined as intense, irrational fears that endure beyond a normal period or age. This is the most common anxiety disorder in America. It can be differentiated from rational dread by context and timeframe. Fears are normal in young children. Separation anxiety and stranger anxiety can help a child respond appropriately to a dangerous situation. These fears however are outgrown at a certain age and should no longer persist in adolescence and adulthood. Children can also develop this disorder. Its symptoms that make a child avoid certain objects and situations create a paralyzing fear.

Mental health professionals use The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and it’s Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) to diagnose phobic disorder. These manuals have classified this disorder into 3 types: social phobia (now called social anxiety disorder), specific (simple) phobias, and agoraphobia. Diagnosis of panic disorder is made through clinical interviews, observation of behavior and psychological evaluation. Often this disorder shares symptoms with obsessive compulsive disorder. In a behavioral study from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston with 36 OCD patients, 14% met DSM-III-R criteria for this disorder during the time of interview.
Social phobia is strong, persisting fear of a situation in which embarrassment can occur.

Specific phobias are limited to particular situations or objects. They are the most common panic disorder but not the most severe phobic disorder. Specific phobias are subdivided into categories: animal phobia – commonly of dogs, insects and snakes, blood-injection-injury phobia, situational phobia like fear of enclosed spaces and natural environment phobia such as natural calamities. Agoraphobia involves fear of being separated from a safe place or trusted person. This disorder can also be of not being able to escape an area that the person may become trapped in.

It should be noted that Phobic Disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder tend to have overlapping symptoms but they are two distinct types of anxiety disorders. Patients afflicted with this do not have invasive thoughts about the fear stimulus until confronted with it unlike in obsessive compulsive disorder where a person’s mind is bombarded with anxiety about facing a certain object or situation. Obsessions are uncontrollable and unwanted. Compulsions or repetitive behaviors typically take more than an hour a day of the person’s time for a month or longer. Relief from anxiety is felt after the obsessive compulsive person finishes the rituals.

Cognitive behavioral therapy together with other forms of therapy has shown to be very effective in managing the symptoms of phobic disorder. Exposure to the source of the issue is gradually done by some therapists. Working alongside a therapist, the patient faces the fear in order to overcome it and realize no harmful effects will come out of the experience. This changes the associations of fear. Management strategies of this disorder that are incorporated into treatment assist sufferers of this condition and find new productive ways of dealing with their fears. Medications along with behavioral therapy may be recommended for agoraphobia, the most incapacitating form of this condition.

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