Having fears isn’t always bad. Healthy fears can assist your decision making to ensure your safety or well-being. If not all, many of us have had to overcome an unhealthy fear in our life. Common fears can be seen as minor, but when fears are so severe they create great anxiety and restrict your regular living they are known as phobias. This extreme level of anxiety is so overwhelming that even though you understand your fear isn’t rational, you cannot control your feelings; causing one to suffer from trauma. Phobias may cause one to run from stressors, avoiding any potential settings that may trigger a traumatic fight or flight response. Luckily, phobias are very treatable. Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) suggest that repeated exposure to the event(s) that created the trauma can help anxiety lessen. Their study consisted of rodents put into a small box then receiving a slight shock. Over a long time period, researchers returned mice to the box and they froze, but because of being exposed to the box. This time no shocks were administered, and eventually the mice relaxed. With assistance from Help Guide, these are differentiating examples common fears vs. phobias:
Fear: Feeling anxious when flying through turbulence or taking off during a storm. vs. Phobia: Not going to your best friend’s island wedding because you’d have to fly there.
Fear: Experiencing butterflies when peering down from the top of a skyscraper or climbing a tall ladder. vs. Phobia: Turning down a great job because it’s on the 10th floor of the office building.
Fear: Getting nervous when you see a pit bull or a Rottweiler. vs. Phobia: Steering clear of the park because you might see a dog
Fear: Feeling a little queasy when getting a shot or when your blood is being drawn. vs. Phobia: Avoiding necessary medical treatments or doctor’s checkups because you’re terrified of needles.
Don’t let your fears get the best of you. I’d like to encourage all to determine what you should be fearful of with evaluations, rather than negative experiences. “By avoiding the situation you’re reinforcing the idea that you should be afraid of it. The best way to approach this ‘exposure therapy’ is to never take on more than you think you can handle,” explained Andy Field, a researcher of the acquisition of fears at Sussex University. If you or anyone you know is struggling with developing fears we have several therapists for you, please contact us here.