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Face Your Fears: Phobia & Health

Posted in General Health 13 Oct, 2015

It's Face Your Fears Week, so why not take a moment to think about your fears. I don't mean the terror of broadband outage or the look on your dad's face when you say 'I've got something to tell you'. This is about phobia. Do you have a phobia? I do. But I'm not telling you what it is.

The charity Changing Faces is behind Face Your Fears Week. Changing Faces campaigns for people with facial disfigurement. Individuals with disfigurement have to literally face their fear every day, so take moment to consider their struggles before you get hysterical over a live frog (damn).

What Is Phobia?

It's an extreme form of fear. A fear becomes a phobia if it interferes with your life or lasts for more than six months. Whereas some level of anxiety is normal and even helpful, we get anxious about the dentist because it may involve drills and bleeding for example, phobia goes beyond a standard reaction to potential pain, distress or loss.

Some phobias are well known, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, others are more unusual such as a fear of cotton wool or mashed potato, but all are seriously upsetting to a phobic.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Nausea
  • Numbness sensations
  • Chest pain
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Hyperventilating
  • A dizzy or light-headed feeling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart
  • Shaking
  • A fear of fainting, losing it or dying

Why Do We Have Phobias?

- A learned response: I've seen children learning to be scared stupid of spiders from their mother's reaction. A screaming adult tends to influence a child that way. Severe turbulence on a plane may lead to a fear of flying, or near drowning may lead to a fear of water. We learn quickly and it's difficult to shake off what's instilled in our brains.

- Genetics: You may have inherited a tendency to stress, anxiety or panic.

- Long term stress: This causes your body and mind to react in a different way. You may find that simple things you could do previously are now too difficult. Stress reduces your ability to cope.

Will Your Phobia Kill You?

No. But your reaction might.

In the short-term: if you spot your phobia and panic you could injure yourself.

In the long-term: the stress and upset of a crippling phobia will raise your heart rate, which may lead to heart disease, stroke or a heart attack. It may reduce your quality of life to the point where you can't leave the house or eat. If your phobia is taking over your life it's important to seek help.

How To Manage

  • Learn how to calm yourself. Relaxation techniques and mindfulness are good ways to distance yourself from your phobia.

  • Support groups are invaluable. Simply sharing anxiety can ease the burden. Online self-help groups can be invaluable if you can't get to a real life session.

  • Your GP can help too with talking therapies or medication. Talking therapies can include cognitive behavioural therapy with a specialist. Medication can include beta-blockers, tranquilisers and antidepressants. Your doctor will help find the right treatment with you.

Be brave guys, I'm off to check out the local ponds.

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