The most common type of anxiety is a phobia. There are a lot of different kinds of phobias. Usually the things people are scared of are reasonable. Who isn’t startled by the unexpected boom of thunder? The problem is the magnitude of the anxiety. The fear is very intense. While a phobia can really cause problems, most people just work around them. We don’t see many phobias in our practice with a few BIG exceptions. Some things can be avoided easily enough so it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day living. For example, if you have a spider phobia it probably won’t keep you from a normal life.
There are some phobias that are the most common. It might be a fear of a critter like bugs, snakes, mice, bees, etc. It could be a natural event like a big storm. School is often a trigger for fears. Some situations like bridges, tight spaces or elevators cause fear. Lots of kids fear the dentist, getting a shot or getting sick. Then there are the ones that don’t seem to fit in the other categories like fear of clowns or costumed characters.
Categories of Phobias
- Animals (like dogs, snakes and bugs)
- Environmental (like storms, water and heights)
- Medical (like shots, blood or dentists)
- Situations (like elevators, small spaces or crowds)
- Other (like clowns, vomiting and loud noise)
The ones that require treatment are ones that interfere with life either frequently or dramatically. Some examples include phobias that interfere with medical treatment or naturally occurring events likes storms. Unfortunately you can’t avoid storms. Sometimes certain situations like fear of flying can be big problems if that is something that might interfere with family events.
The one that gets very little press but I see VERY often in my practice is the fear of vomiting. This is called Emetophobia. I see it in adults but much more often in children. Believe it or not, this particular phobia is often kept hidden. For example, kids might just look like picky eaters, won’t go off with friends or even won’t go to school. The secret is that they are avoiding potential sickness.
School fears are often a huge issue because it can lead to a child refusing to go to school or resisting going to school. The fear could be about tests, having to speak in class, being embarrassed, getting sick or possible failure. Because going to school is usually mandatory it can become a family crisis.
With any kind of anxiety, there might be more than one fear present. Like other anxiety disorders the treatment consists of thinking differently, facing the fear gradually and stopping any behavior that is reinforcing the fear. For more information you might find these articles helpful.