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Mentoring Article Series #5

This article shares about one of the most devastating feeling a human may ever experience, which is the feeling of fear! Everyone has somehow experienced it in our life time and it certainly is a very deeply rooted and life changing experience.

“What is Fear?”
Fear is defined in many psychology books simply as a feeling where a person is afraid of something. It is closely link to another word which I will also use in this article and it is call Phobia. Phobia is the type of fear which is devastating to human being and cause us more trouble than just a simple fear feeling.

Fear is simpler in the sense that everyone has it. For example, I’m fearful of snakes, and I will experience this fear feeling whenever I see one of them in front of me. Other than that, this fear feeling doesn’t make my life any worse, or hinder the way I live my life, and I do not have fear feeling when I see snakes in TV or newspaper or a photo. However, Phobia is a more deeply affecting feeling where a person consistently fear of something and he/she tries to avoid them at all cost. They are fearful of the object or situation even when they simply think or imagine about it in their mind. For example, if a person has fear of darkness (or Achluophobia), he/she will try his/her best to not go anywhere that is dark, or avoid going out during night time, and most likely sleeps with the lights turned on.

“Why do we develop Phobias?”
The feeling of fear is a natural feeling that is suppose to help us to remember and avoid danger, and saves our life whenever we are in a dangerous situation. It gives us motivation to do something and a boost of energy to spring into action, such as running away from danger. But when this feeling of fear is consistently felt in our daily life, and it is consistently in a person’s mind, then it may potentially further develop into worries in which efforts are needed all the time to avoid it. This is what some psychology books call “overestimating the threat of the danger presented by the object or situation”. That is Phobia, it becomes a major concern to the person and reduce the quality of life to whoever affected by it. For example, a person who suffers from Social Phobia has a tendency to avoid standing in front of people, or talk to people they are not familiar, in order to avoid the feeling of embarrassment. This condition also sometimes result in the person to develop poor communication skills and social skills, in which it further reinforce the avoidance tendency since he/she regularly encounter situations that they find awkward or difficult to handle, or making them too nervous.

“How many types of Phobias are known to us?”
There are many types of Phobia, for a more complete list of it, please check it out at this website (http://phobialist.com/ or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_phobias). According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), they are basically categorized into three major categories as below:

1) Specific Phobia:
In this category, there are four different types, namely:

— Animal type such as fear of spiders (Arachnophobia), snakes (Ophidiophobia), cockroach (Katsaridaphobia), rats (Murophobia), worms (Scoleciphobia), etc.

— Natural environment type such as fear of heights (Acrophobia), lightning (Astraphobia), darkness (Achluophobia), etc.

— Situational types such as fear of small confine spaces (Claustrophobia), fear of failure (Atychiphobia), fear of making decisions (Decidophobia), fear of being laughed at (Gelotophobia), etc.

— Blood or Injection or Injury type such as fear of injection or needles (Trypanophobia), fear of blood (Hemophobia), etc.

— Others such as fear of becoming ill (Nosophobia), fear of dreams (Oneirophobia), fear of being touched (Chiraptophobia), fear of pain (Algophobia), etc.

2) Agoraphobia:
In this type of phobia, people are afraid of leaving a safe space or fear of open places.

3) Social Phobia:
This type of phobia makes a person feel extremely fearful on how others judge him/her. It is also known as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), a type of psychological disorder that may require medical treatment or professional counseling therapy.

The variety of different types of phobias makes it an interesting study, especially on how it affects a human’s life. Practically most of the objects and situations in this world may potentially turn into a phobia if excessive worries and fear are developed and focused on it. For example, a person may develop the fear of searching for documents or organizing documents due to the “extremely unpleasant” past experience. Or in another example, a person may become phobic toward simple things such as opening a door, perhaps because of the past traumatic experience. One will never understand the deep psychological effects on a person until he/she personally experience it themselves.

“What is the impact of having Fear or Phobia in our life?”
This is yet another one of the extremely deep impact factors that potentially shape a person’s life. Fear and phobias may cause a person to develop avoidance behavior whereby in the long term, the person’s view may be biased, his/her life can be twisted beyond our imagination. Here’s some examples:

Just imagine how a person who suffers from severe level of Agoraphobia (phobia that’s associated to leaving a safe space) lives his/her daily life. He/She can hardly leave home. That person probably needs someone to company him/her to everywhere he/she goes. You can easily visualize how difficult that condition would be to the family and friends. This person will have high probability of having fewer friends, possibly of living an abnormal lifestyle and not comfortable of how others look or judge him/her. And because the person suffers from this severe form of fear and worries, it is likely that he/she develops Panic Disorders and other more complicated form of mental disorders such as major depression. When untreated, the person may end up in an extreme condition of committing suicide or simply becomes insane.

Another example, this girl is suffering from Androphobia (fear of men). This would be even more difficult to handle as men is everywhere, which means the girl is unlikely to go out from her home, or even welcome any relatives or friends into her house. And we can easily see the kind of quality of life she has in her entire life if untreated. If the phobia continues, chances of her getting a boyfriend and married is low, and probably needs to attend special school, or home schooling, or not attending any formal education at all. And we can also imagine the impact of it toward the person’s self esteem and self worth.

You should be able to imagine the amount of pain that the affected person suffers. However, those examples are severe cases, and they are obvious some form of treatment is necessary. But for those who suffer less severe type of phobias, they may not realize it or they may think that they can slowly remove them over some time through their own effort, or just live with it. People like this are the ones that will suffer in silent, until the problem becomes critical enough to be properly treated.

“What can we do to overcome it?”
There are generally several options to handle it. Seek professional help from Clinical Counselors or Psychiatrist or Psychologist are the major choice. They are the most common methods in treating Phobias. You may also check out some of the helpful tips from these websites: http://www.helpguide.org/…/therapy-for-anxiety-disorders.htm or http://www.anxietycare.org.uk/docs/self.asp

1) Psychotherapy
Many psychiatrist and counselors apply an effective treatment methods on Phobias called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It helps patients to understand how they think and how the way they think affect their emotions and behavior. Through a series of sessions, clients will be able to change some of the problematic mindsets or thinking patterns which eventually improve their life. This kind of therapy is not an instant magic that transforms a person or cure them, but over some time, the person will improve and learn to handle the problems on their own. CBT is effective because it empowers the patients to take back control on how they want to think, behave or act in their life, and it has been well researched by many scholars, psychiatrists and academicians in this aspect and it has proven in many cases to be useful, especially on Specific Phobias.

2) Exposure Therapy (ET) or Systematic Desensitization.
This is another one of the popularly applied methods in helping patients countering the negative effects of Phobias. Patients are gradually exposed to the feared object or situation in order to reduce the sensitivity or fear the person feels toward the them. Some reports mentioned that the effects of Exposure Therapy will be better when it is combined with CBT. Another form of Exposure Therapy applied technology in Virtual Reality where simulated situation is projected on a screen, similar to a pilot’s simulator room during training.

3) Medication
It is possible that medication can be prescribed to patients to reduce the negative impact of Phobias. However, the medication may be served with the purpose of reducing the effects of anxiety or panic symptoms or depression, and other associated problems that may complicates the present issue. Also, medication is usually applied as a form of short term help and not suppose to be depended upon in the long run. Even with medication, patients would be advised to seek CBT or related treatment methods for a more resounding outcome.

4) Hypnotherapy
This methods allows the Hypnotherapist to help patients reduce the fear on objects or situations in a comfort and relax condition without the need to step out from the building. Sometimes Exposure Therapy is applied in a gradual manner and up to certain extent, it helps. However, some research revealed that the imaginative state of therapy may not be sufficient to prepare the patient for the real situation.

5) Seek Help from Neuro-Linguistic Program (NLP) Professionals
This is a unique method on treating Phobias and various researches have revealed that it is quick and effective to some patients. It puts the patients through a process of imagination that is called “Disassociated Visualization”, it works quite differently from Hypnotherapy. However, the effects may be not lasting due to it doesn’t impart coping skills or behavioral techniques that enable patients to learn how to change and handle the problem themselves after the treatment.

6) Use Self Help Technique

— Self-Exposure
Self Exposure is a simple method where the patient may gradually through some steps, allow themselves being expose to the feared object or situation, and the goal is to lessen the sensitivity of the feeling by controlling yourself.

— Mindfulness Meditation
It helps patient to understand what is going on in their own mind, helps to calm the person down and not triggering any anxiety. This method is probably useful to less severe form of Phobias and it would be good to combine it with any other types of therapy. However, it is best that meditation is learned from an experienced meditation teacher for the best effects.

Depends on the severity of the phobic symptoms or conditions, one should always seek professional advice or help when necessary in order to deal with the problem more effectively. Also, there may be other useful and possibly effective methods or therapy to handle Phobias which are not mentioned here and it doesn’t mean that they may not work. It is always better to explore what works best for the patient.

The final point is: Phobia and fear is an essential feeling which is in-build into each of us. In some circumstances, it was not even our choice to choose or control whether we accept or reject some of these fears because either we were too young to understand it, or it probably happened without our conscious awareness. Some people develop Phobias but because they were lacking of proper guidance or advice to act upon it (some also choose to ignore it), they have allowed Phobias to develop into a more serious condition, even to the level of being hazardous to themselves and others.

Phobia or fear is only a psychological condition, which can be overcome after some effort and time. But non action or ignorance will surely bring about long term and deep pain into one’s life. The main concern is early detection, and take actions early in order to stop it from ruining your life, and other’s life who are close to you too. Lastly, change is usually faster and more effective with the help from others.

[Photo’s Title: ”Fear“] Fear, the main cause of countless pain and sorrow. It gives us the feeling of becoming forever trap in a dark world without light or hope and it’s full of things that are frightening.

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