Difference Between Phobias and Anxiety Disorder

Amongst the various types of anxiety disorders there are also phobias, which are specific fears that a person develops, which may be intense and are often irrational. Common phobias may include closed in spaces, a fear of heights, driving, water, flying, spiders and blood. However, what is the difference between phobias and anxiety disorder. Having a healthy fear of something is one thing but having an anxiety related phobia is something totally different.

Many people have various instilled or natural fears, some of which are intense. If you have never flown before then you may be afraid of the idea of flying. But that does not mean you have an anxiety phobia. Phobias do not involve just intense fear, they are an irrational and an extreme fear of one particular object or situation.

People who are affected by phobias are often fearless in other aspects of life. They may be able to fly in a plane but are scared to go above the fifth floor of an elevator. Or they may work a dangerous job with plenty of risks but still have a great fear of spiders.

Phobias can be very specific and there are many recorded cases in which common objects were specified, and even extremely rare objects or situations were the source of much anxiety. These fears are usually without merit, and the sufferer may realize that. That does not change the level of anxiety, however.

The anxiety caused by the phobia may lead to other disorders such as panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. The more common the phobia, the more the person affected by it will seek isolation in a desperate attempt to avoid the source of anxiety. If the phobia relates to something in ordinary life such as large crowds, open spaces, small rooms, meeting new people or travel, then it obviously will affect the person's ability to enjoy life.

Physical symptoms will usually accompany the phobia and these may include: profuse sweating, a heart rate increase, panic attacks, nausea, chest pain, dizziness or faint spells. Just because a person can survive an episode of exposure to the phobia doesn't mean that they have conquered their fear or that their anxiety level will somehow decrease.

Phobia disorders affect an estimated nineteen million Americans. The cause is believed to be linked to genetics, though the development of the disorder is not entirely sure. Trauma may also be a factor involved, if a person learned the fear of a certain object or situation through a life-threatening experience. Development usually occurs in childhood or adolescent years and then continues into adulthood.

What is the Best Treatment for Phobias

Some believe that avoidance is the best solution, and that may be the answer but provided that the phobia is a rare object or situation and not frequently encountered in normal life. If the phobia is unavoidable however, then it's best to seek professional help. This type of assistance will not require medication but psychotherapy. It will likely involve the technique of systematic desensitization. This process involves gradually exposing a patient to the phobic object after an education of how to react to the object and maintain control.

The failure to treat a serious condition of anxiety related phobia could lead to other disorders, physical health problems and disappointment in a person's personal or professional life.

Page Updated: November 11, 2016
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