Phobias

When an executive or professional experiences a phobia it can dramatically impair their performance. For instance, a public speaking phobia can be career limiting at best and career ending at worst.

How do you know if you are suffering from one or more phobias?

Brief answer

Does something that most others are not bothered by, create in you so much fear that it impacts on your life?

If you answered Yes, you may be experiencing a phobia. You may wish to explore phobias more before deciding whether to seek help.

More detailed answer

Having a phobia about something (let’s call it X) is so common as to be almost normal.

Phobias become a problem, if your life, or any aspect of it, is impaired by your fear of X.

Life hampering phobias affect around 10% of people (depending on how they are classified).

If you have a fear of something that most objective others would consider no real threat, then you may have a phobia.

If you take action that changes your life, in response to the presence of X or the possible presence of X, when others would not, you may have a phobia. For instance, many people have an apprehension about going to the dentist, but for a someone experiencing dental phobia the fear is so strong that they cannot attend, or can only attend when sedated.

Even though you know the phobia of X is an excessive reaction, your fear is real, not imagined, and all the feelings and bodily changes you experience are always very real. If the life problems that the phobia causes you are also real, then it may be time to consider getting help.

Here  is quick and simple phobia questionnaire:

1.  Do you avoid doing something that most people would do because of your fear of X?
2.  Does that avoidance interfere with your life?
3.  Do you recognise that your phobia is an excessive reaction?
4.  Does your phobia cause extreme fear?

If you answered Yes to all four questions, then it is probable that you have a phobia.

Treatments

Each person is different, as such, it is unlikely that any one off-the-shelf treatment for phobias can work for everyone. A skilled psychotherapist will find the way (usually several ways) to best help you overcome your phobia.

Range of Phobic Responses

Many people experience a fear reaction when going to the dentist, which ranges from a slight, “Hmmm, I hope everything is OK” to “I don’t want to go, but, I know it this short term feeling will pass, and the long-term benefits will remain,” to “Dentists terrify me! I never go, never have and never will. I couldn’t even speak to one! Even seeing a picture of one makes me anxious. Even thinking about this now is making me tense.!”

A similar range of reactions applies to most phobias. Something that wouldn’t cause a moment of hesitation for most people feels like it is bringing on a heart attack in others.

How do you decide if the phobia is serious enough to need help?

That’s your call. Here is an indicator: if you feel your life or professional performance has been impaired by the phobia(s), in the past, and you want to be free of that impairment in the future, then perhaps help is the best way forward.

Signs and symptoms of phobias

A phobic reaction can vary in intensity from mild anxiety to showing all the physical and emotional elements of full-blown terror.

Do you experience:

1.    Breathing problems?
2.    Dizziness, lightheadedness?
3.    Heart palpitations?
4.    Chest pains?
5.    Chest tightness?
6.    Localised sweating?
7.    Generalised sweating?
8.    Stomach churning?
9.    Hot or cold flushes?
10. Muscle tremors?
11. Overwhelming anxiety?
12. Panic attack?
13. Loss of control?
14. Desire to escape?
15. Death as being close?

The more questions to which you answered Yes, the more the phobia is impacting your life and performance.

Types of phobias

There are a vast number of phobias, many of which have been known of for so long that they have names in ancient languages.

Most people have experienced some kind of phobia. Few people are immune from the fear of speaking in public, which is, by far, the most common phobia, and the one that impairs most executives and professionals.  The next most common is the fear of spiders and/or snakes.

Common phobias

Fear of

  • public speaking
  • dentists
  • injections or needles
  • heights
  • enclosed spaces
  • the dark
  • loud noises
  • snakes
  • spiders
  • thunder and lightening
  • disease
  • viruses and bacteria
  • dogs
  • flying
  • holes
  • cancer
  • death
  • being alone
  • failure

Some of the most common causes of phobias are

1.  One-off traumatic experiences (real or imagined)
2.  Prolonged exposure to threat (real or imagined)
3.  One-off or prolonged pain (real or imagined)
4.  Parental conditioning (real or imagined)
5.  Peer or sibling conditioning (real or imagined)

When do phobias develop?

For most people it is in their younger years, but phobias can develop at any time of life.

Treatments

Each person is different, as such, it is unlikely that any one off-the-shelf treatment for phobias can work for everyone. A skilled psychotherapist will find the way (usually several ways) to best help you overcome your phobia.

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List of Phobias

Here is a list of phobias. This list is far from exhaustive. For instance, I once helped a driver who had a fear of turning right. You can imagine how difficult that made life.

You may have a phobia that is not listed. If so, pleased be assured that almost all phobias can be successfully addressed.

Fear of:

an undiscovered bodily problem
accidents
air
airsickness
alcohol
animals
anything, everything
automobiles
bacteria
bald people
beards
bears
beautiful women
becoming a victim of robbery
becoming bald
becoming insane
bees
being alone
being buried alive
being hypnotized
being in a house
being in dark places
being in the street
being in vehicles
being lonely
being oneself
being ridiculed
being stared at
being tied up
being too warm
being touched
bicycles
birds
blood
blushing
bogeymen
books
brain diseases
bridges
bums
cats
cemeteries
childbirth
choking
churches
cliffs
climbing stairs
clothing
clouds
clowns
cold things
colours
committing an error
computers
confined spaces
constipation
constipation
contamination
cooking
crossing streets
crowds
dampness
dancing
darkness
dead bodies
death
demons
dentists
dependence on others
depths
diabetes
dining
dirt
dizziness
dogs
dolls
drafts
dreams
drinking
dryness
dust
eating
eating or swallowing
empty rooms
epilepsy
extreme cold
failure
fainting
fat
fears
feathers
feces
female genitalia
fever
fire
firearms
fish
flashing lights
floods
flying
fog
food
forests
freedom
Friday the 13th
frogs
gaining weight
gases
getting wrinkles
ghosts
glaring lights
God
going to bed
going to school
growing old
hair, hairy objects
Halloween
having a fever
heart disease
heat
heaven
heights
Hell
high spaces
horses
hurricanes or tornadoes
ice or frost
ideas
illness
illness
insects
jealousy
jumping downwards
kissing
lakes
large objects
laughter
leprosy
lice
lightning
litigation
long waits
looking down
losing one’s virginity
love
machinery
making decisions
marriage
meat
medicines
men
menstruation
meteors
mice
mirrors
money
naked bodies
needles
night
noise
nosebleeds
novelty
nuclear weapons
odors
open spaces
open spaces
opposite sex
otters
pain
pain
painful bowel movements
paper
parasites
people
pleasure
poison
poisons
politicians
poverty
prostitutes
public speaking
punishment
rain
rape
rectal diseases
relatives
religions
reptiles
responsibility
rivers
Satan
school
sex
sexual abuse
sexual intercourse
shadows
shock
sinning
sitting down
skin disease
sleep
small things
snakes
snow
society
solitude or being alone
speaking
speaking honestly
speed
spiders
staying single
stealing
stepfather
stepmother
strangers
stuttering
suffering
sunlight
surgical procedures
taking drugs
taking tests
tastes
teeth
termites
the cold
the colour white
the moon
the mother-in-law
the Pope
the sight of food
thunder
travel
trees
ugliness
undressing in front of another
urinating
vaccinations
vegetables
vertigo
vomiting
walking
washing or bathing
wasps
wasting sickness
water
waves
wet dreams
wild animals
women
words
work
worms
writing
X-rays

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