If somebody who is close to you has a phobia, it can be difficult to understand and deal with. Phobias often seem silly if you have never had a similar experience, and many people who exhibit phobia symptoms are sometimes suspected of 'faking it". Because of the oddity of phobias, it is easy to suspect someone who suffers from phobic episodes of acting strange in order to get attention or make others feel sorry for them.
Phobias are irrational fear disorders, which causes sufferers to have strong reactions to things that are not normally serious or threatening. In many cases, people with phobias realize how silly their fear is, but since it is an irrational fear, they are unable to do anything about it. If someone you know has a phobia, it is helpful to understand what he or she is experiencing so that you can help him or her or at least know how to react if you are present for a phobic episode.
When a phobia triggers, it is a very stressful time for the sufferer. They may not understand why, but they are intensely frightened of something and their heart rate increases, hands get sweaty, and they might even have a panic attack. Most people with phobias hate the idea of the phobic response as much as the response itself. They feel this way because they know that they should not be as frightened of their phobic trigger as they are.
The fight or flight response is a term for the biological process your body undergoes when under a lot of immediate stress. It is essentially the result of your brain perceiving a serious threat and adding adrenaline to your bloodstream, making you temporarily stronger, faster, and more able to act instinctively to overcome a potentially life threatening situation. The fight or flight response occurs in different levels. Sometimes a little adrenaline releases into the bloodstream, while other times your body is flooded with adrenaline.
Our ancient ancestors relied heavily on this response for survival when the world was not so civilized and they were constantly struggling to survive. Although the fight or flight response is not as crucial today, it is a natural response that can be very helpful, or harmful if it is triggered unnecessarily. This response is responsible for news reports of people lifting extremely heavy objects off people and other extraordinary physical feats.
The fight or flight response is even more developed in wild animals. It is not unusual for a deer that has been shot through either the lungs or the heart to run the length of a football field, or for several miles if other vital organs are not hit. When someone has a true phobia, these are the intense feelings that they have to deal with, but instead of escaping an imminent threat, they are responding to a spider, snake, mouse, or some other stimulus that triggers their phobia. What is worse is that phobias strike in every day places such as work, school, or social functions where the fight or flight response is completely inappropriate.
There is a phobia for almost everything imaginable, with the majority resulting from a bad experience, or the fear of a bad experience. It does not matter if a person realizes that their phobia is silly, they are powerless to escape once the phobic reaction is triggered. Therapy and medication can help but if someone close to you has a phobia, they will appreciate the fact that you took the time to try to understand what they are dealing with.