What is a Phobia and What is Anxiety?
Both Phobias and Anxiety are terms used to describe types of fear responses. Phobias tend to be more specific and greater in intensity and anxieties tend to be more general and of less intensity. However as anxiety increases it can turn into a panic attack that can be of similar intensity to that of a phobia.
Phobia: a lasting abnormal fear or severe dislike of something.
Anxiety: troubled and uneasy in mind, filled with worry.
As you can see both definitions can be interchanged with one another and often both describe the same state of fear that an individual is having.
Both fears and phobias have what I call the "what if factor". Meaning that the individual spends much of the time concerning themselves with 'what if this happened' or 'what if they did that' or 'what if that happened'. One way of looking at the solution is to turn the 'WHAT IF into 'WHAT EVER!!'
How do I Know if I have an Anxiety or a Phobia?
This will be rather obvious. The symptoms to look for are:
When even thinking about coming into contact with something you have a strong negative physical response.
Upon seeing something you (unless it's just an initial surprise) get a strong negative physical response.
If it is just a one time event, then this is a normal part of life. However if it is a continued response that happens over time then it is likely that it has become either an anxiety or phobia.
The Strong Negative Responses are what are called Flight/Fight responses. The person believes either consciously or unconsciously that there is a threat and wants to either run away (flight) or get ready to tackle it (fight). Either way the body is pumped full of adrenaline and strong responses occur these can range from any to all of the symptoms that follow:
Feeling Dizzy, light headed and slightly unreal or in an altered state.
Nausea and retching
Sweating palms or other parts of body
Uncomfortable and unsettling feelings in the chest.
Unsettling Tingles in other parts of the body.
Crying and Hysteria
Point Blank refusal to engage in situation with no rational reason.
Breathlessness and Hyperventilation
Urge to run away
Choking or feelings of being smothered
Hot or Cold Flushes
How do people normally deal with a phobia or anxiety before they seek help?
The most common coping mechanism that people use is avoidance. This can range from mild to major in scope. I have known people to just want to sit on the other side of the room from the thing that they fear to others who will not leave the house so great is their concern of encountering the thing that they fear.
Some people just cope by forcing themselves and spend years in great discomfort and distress (often friends and family know nothing of the problem). For many an obsessive relationship with the thing they fear develops. There is the need to check things in a precise way, check for safety, check for escape routes, plan journeys to avoid the fearful thing and so on.
It is normal for the quality of the life of the individual to be greatly diminished and this is the real reason why we want to remove these fears. People can put up with more suffering than we can imagine, however it does not need to be this way. Many people spend years, (I have personally helped people who have suffered for over 50 years with their fear) not realising that there are solutions at hand that take a few hours or less to totally remedy the situation.