The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Garden Variety Phobias

World Phobia Day is observed every year on June 15.

Published: 14th June 2014 07:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th June 2014 08:01 AM   |  A+A-


CHENNAI: World Phobia Day is observed every year on June 15.  To get some information re phobias and how they impacted one’s life, City Express got chatting with Dr U Gautamadas, a Chennai based neuro psychiatrist. Here we go:

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an unreasonable and overwhelming fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger, causes intense physical and psychological distress, and affects the ability to function normally at work or in social settings.

What causes a phobia?

Brain chemicals, genetics and traumatic experiences influence the development of phobias as well as result in depression and psychosis. Phobias are linked to the amygdala, almond shaped areas in the brain that trigger secretion of hormones that affect fear and aggression.

How does one know whether one has it?

A feeling of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear; physical reactions such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing; psychological reactions such as a feeling of panic, fear of death or going mad and intense anxiety are symptoms that may predominantly indicate that one has a particular phobia.

Three types of phobias…

Fears of situation, such as being on the top of a high building (Agoraphobia), in a confined space such as at school or at work (Claustrophobia), fear of social situations; and fear of a specific illness or death and fear of specific objects (simple phobia) such as mice, cats, snakes, numbers.

What are the most common phobias?

Fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); fear of animals, particularly spiders, snakes or mice; fear of heights (acrophobia), flying (pterygophobia); and fear of water (hydrophobia) are some of the most common phobias.

Are phobias hereditary?

Phobias run in families. Phobias usually develop early in life. Specific phobias such as the ones having to do with the environment or personal injury first appear in childhood, as early as age five. Social phobias most often develop between the ages of 11 and 15. Situational phobias, such as fear of tunnels, elevators, bridges, flying, driving etc usually develop by the mid-20s.

The larger issue…

Phobias lead to other problems including financial, professional and interpersonal problem, depression, alcohol or other drugs abuse to deal with the fear, and psychosis.

How to treat phobias?

Children may outgrow simple phobias, but most adults don’t get better on their own and require some treatment. Phobic disorders tend to be chronic, with a frequent recurrence of symptoms that are often resistant to therapeutic measures. Sometimes phobias may be part of other psychiatric illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia etc.


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