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A phobia is more than simply not liking something; it is a pronounced and extreme fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal, which is overwhelming and debilitating. Phobias develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object, and if severe, can lead to significant distress.

Sometimes people do not become anxious until they are in contact with the source of the phobia, but in some cases, just thinking about the source of a phobia can lead to anticipatory anxiety and feelings of panic. Phobias can also cause people to organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety, preventing them from fully participating in life and missing out.

When people are afraid, they may experience symptoms such as:

  • increased heart rate or palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • feeling unsteady
  • dizziness and light-headedness
  • nausea

If you don't come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life. However, if your phobia stops you from doing things that you need to do to maintain good health (eg, going to the dentist, having an injection), or stops you from enjoying time with your friends of family (eg, fear of dogs or spiders), then it’s best to get help.

Phobias can be successfully treated and cured with gradual exposure to the object, animal, place or situation that causes fear and anxiety. This is known as systematic desensitisation or exposure therapy. I have helped many people to overcome their phobias, including fears about spiders, vomit, blood and injections.

For more information about how to deal with trauma, contact Dr Alex.