For Part 3 of “My Diagnoses,” I decided to write about some of my phobias. I have four different phobias that affect me every day. Before I begin, I wanted to address the difference between fears and phobias. Fear is a normal psychological response to danger; it’s a healthy and necessary emotion. A phobia is an extreme fear that causes excessive anxiety which is often out of proportion with the situation. Now that we covered that, let us talk about the fun subject of phobias! (Note my sarcasm).
What is a phobia?
According to Medical News Today, a phobia is “a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme, irrational fear about a situation, living creature, place, or object.” The causes of the development of phobias vary greatly from person to person. The existence of phobias in an individual can be due to preexisting anxiety disorders, traumatic events, genetics, environmental factors, etc.
Unfortunately, I am very familiar with the effects phobias can have on every part of your life. Phobias are scary and disturbing and exhausting. Phobias are torture, to put it plainly. I will list my phobias from most to least severe and add the definition of each.
1.Emetophobia- the fear of vomiting.
This fear may be hard to understand for a lot of people. It may even seem kind of silly, right? Why would someone be terrified of throwing up? well, I don’t know, honestly. The act of vomiting, vomit itself, other people vomiting, stomach viruses going around, nausea, stomach pains, other people feeling nausea or stomach pains, movies with or videos of people vomiting, and constant fear of meat being under-cooked or food being spoiled are all situations or things that set me into severe panic. This phobia is what causes most of my panic attacks and, in truth, it makes me miserable. I avoid different foods or situations that could cause my stomach to feel weird. It is so severe that I cannot stand the sensation of my food digesting. So that’s fun.
2. Agoraphobia- the fear of places or situations that could that could cause panic.
This phobia is absolutely tiring and isolating. The fear of being anxious causes serious anxiety, which is kind of ironic. When my anxiety becomes too severe, there are many days when I can’t leave my house without panicking. Agoraphobia has kept me from enjoying so many situations and accomplishing so many goals. This phobia can be a major cause of depression. When you can’t leave your house or can’t go to certain places you would like to, you can start to believe that you’ll never be able to do anything enjoyable or accomplish any goals ever again. This is kind of how I’ve been feeling recently, and its very difficult to get out of that mindset.
3. Thantophobia- the fear of death
The fear of death can be crippling. Believe it or not, I’m not afraid of dying. But, I am deathly afraid (see what I did there) of a family member dying. I think this started after a traumatic event in July when my family almost drowned in the ocean while I watched on shore. About a week later, my sister was in a minor car accident. A little later, my childhood puppy passed away. After the most awful July of my life, I guess I realized anything could happen at any time, and that fact scared me. A lot. Now, I’m so scared that one of my family members will die unexpectedly, and because family is so important to me, that fear stresses me out constantly.
4. Hadephobia- the fear of hell
As I mentioned in my last post, I have an irrational fear of going to hell. I’m a christian and I take my faith very seriously. That being said, I am still scared of being sentenced to eternal torture. This fear is at the bottom of my list now, but a year and a half ago, it would have been at the top. Exposure therapy helped me with hadephobia more than I can say.
Detection and treatment
Figuring out if you have a phobia as opposed to a normal fear can be a little confusing at times. For instance, I have fears of sharks, heights, crowds, moths, elevators, and outer space, but these fears aren’t severe enough to be considered serious phobias. Reachout.com described the signs and symptoms of the effects of phobias very well: “Signs you may have a phobia include: being excessively fearful of a situation or object on an ongoing basis. Feeling an intense need to avoid or escape from the feared situation or object. Experiencing panic or distress when exposed to the situation or object.” The treatment options for phobias include medication and/or therapy. I am on an SSRI and I have gone through extensive exposure therapy. I am about to resume exposure therapy in December after a year of going without. When I began therapy, I was desperate. My OCD and anxiety were awful. My therapist had me fill out an anxiety screening test to see how severe mine was, and once I was finished, she told me that I had the highest anxiety score she’s seen. Yikes. So I started therapy, and within a year, my OCD and anxiety had improved so much that I felt better than I’ve ever felt. This, of course, was before I started having panic attacks again in July of this year. What I’m saying is treatment is so worth the effort and adjustments. I am beyond blessed with a wonderful support system and a patient and determined therapist. I highly recommend medication and/or therapy if that’s what your doctor recommends.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. I hope it helped and encouraged someone out there. I’m sorry I haven’t posted this week! To be completely real with you, I haven’t had a great week. I’m adjusting to a new dosage of medicine and my anxiety has been terrible. I’ve been trying to get through this series of panic attacks while stressing about if I’ll ever be able to do anything with my life. (Thanks, brain!) I’m so ready to get back into therapy! If it is any consolation to anyone contemplating starting treatment for anxiety, just remember that two years ago, I spent most of my day in misery with OCD, and now my OCD has improved so much that it’s not even my main mental issue anymore. Treatment works for so many people, and I urge you try it if deemed necessary. If anyone feels they need to talk to someone, you can find my email here on my blog page. Thanks again!