Phobias: What are you afraid of?

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Hundreds of different phobias have been identified, including phobophobia or fear of phobias.

A phobia is an anxiety disorder that can be severe enough to impact a person's daily life. "It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger," according to MedlinePlus, which is run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

When talking about phobias, experts divide them into three main categories – agoraphobia, an intense anxiety in public places where an escape might be difficult; social phobia, a fear and avoidance of social situations; and specific phobia, an irrational fear of specific objects or situations.

Agoraphobia: Fear of public places
Agoraphobia affects twice as many women as men. Untreated, it can lead to someone becoming housebound. With treatment, nine out of every ten people who follow through are helped.

Social phobia: Beyond being shy
Someone with social phobia is not just shy. That person feels extreme anxiety and fear about he she will perform in a social situation. Because untreated social phobia often leads to avoiding social contact, it can have a major negative impact on a person’s relationships and professional life.

Claustrophobia: Needing a way out
Claustrophobia, an abnormal fear of being in enclosed spaces, is a common specific phobia. A person with claustrophobia can’t ride in elevators or go through tunnels without extreme anxiety. Afraid of suffocating or being trapped.

The most common type of specific phobia is zoophobia or fear of animals.

Such phobias often develop in childhood and sometimes go away as the child ages. But they can persist into adulthood.

Acrophobia is an excessive fear of heights and manifests as severe anxiety. An anxiety attack can make it extremely difficult to safely get down from whatever high place triggered the attack.

Someone who has aerophobia is afraid of flying. The phobia generally develops after a person has a traumatic experience involving an airplane. Hypnotherapy is commonly used to identify the initial trauma and to treat this phobia.

Blood-injection and injury phobias are associated with fainting.

People with carcinophobia or cancerophobia live with an irrational dread of developing cancer. Cognitive therapy can help someone with carcinophobia regain control of their life.

Alcoholics can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer from a phobia than those who are not alcoholics. And phobic individuals can be twice as likely to be addicted to alcohol as those who have never been phobic.

Desensitization is a process of gradually exposing someone with a phobia to circumstances that resemble what he fears. Over time, the fear lessens as the person builds confidence. The good news is treatment helps 90 percent of people who follow through.

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