Dealing with Phobias

Symptoms & Therapy Options

It’s not uncommon for most people have a fear of one thing or another. If you ask people what they are afraid of, you’ll get a wide range of responses from spiders to public speaking to death. When a fear becomes irrational, excessive or interferes with your life, it becomes a phobia. Phobias can make you feel extreme anxiety and put you in a state of “fight or flight”. Typically, exposure to your phobia will have you experiencing both emotional and physical sensations such as palpitations of the heart, feelings of tension, apprehension, and even full-blown panic attacks.

Phobias can affect anyone of any age and they may or may not have been due to past experiences or trauma.

How do you know when a fear is actually a Phobia?

There are 3 types of phobias:

Social phobias:

At it’s a base, a social phobia is really about a fear of rejection or being judged by making a fool of yourself (which we fear ultimately leads to rejection). This can include being in social situations or public speaking.


This is considered a complex phobia and is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult or having a panic attack in public.

Specific phobias:

These are generally called simple phobias and are specific to a particular trigger such as an animal, insect, experience, or medical procedure.

You may be diagnosed with a phobia if you go out of your way to avoid the trigger and it affects how you live because you will avoid the trigger at all costs. Perhaps you turn down invitations to social gatherings and feel lonely, or maybe you take driving vacations and only dream of visiting far-away places because of a fear of flying, or you might have unhealthy teeth due to a dental phobia. Some phobias are easier to avoid than others.

Symptoms and Signs

Some of the symptoms a person with a phobia may experience when exposed to the trigger are:

Inability to function or behave normally when exposed to the trigger

  • Extreme anxiety
  • A need to avoid the trigger
  • An understanding that the fear of the trigger is irrational
  • An inability to control these feelings.

Symptoms include:

  • Trembling, muscle tension
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Extreme fear
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fear of dying or losing control
  • Obsession with trigger

Common phobias

  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
  • Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces, having a panic attack in public)
  • Mysophobia (fear of germs)
  • Cynophobia (fear of dogs)
  • Aviaphobia (fear of flying)
  • Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces)
  • Entomophobia (fear of insects)
  • Astraphobia (fear of storms)
  • Trypanophobias (fear of needles)

When is it time to get help?

When phobias are impacting your life it is time to get help. If you are agoraphobic or have a social phobia this will have a bigger consequence and be much harder to avoid triggers than if you have a specific phobia. You don’t have to live in fear of leaving your home. You don’t always have to scan for the nearest exit or struggle in social situations. You can travel, enjoy being outside and not think about spiders, moths or snakes. You can fly anywhere you want, go to the doctor or dentist with little fear. There are several forms of therapy that can help you to overcome a phobia of any kind.

Treatment methods for dealing with phobias

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that was originally developed to alleviate suffering of veterans who were experiencing PTSD. To date, this remarkable therapy has relieved complex symptoms in more than one million sufferers worldwide! EMDR therapy works by having the therapist moves their hand back and forth (like a windshield wiper), while you watch the therapist’s finger (like watching ping pong) while recalling the event. Through the eye movements, the painful incident and feelings are replaced with calmness, feelings of peacefulness and empowerment. It works quickly and may significantly lessen many symptoms of anxiety.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how your thoughts, emotions and beliefs influence your behaviour and how you perceive yourself, others and the world. CBT has been shown to be effective in dealing with anxiety because it helps you to change those negative thoughts, feelings, emotions and projections on a subject matter or circumstance and help you to learn more effective ways of dealing with your anxiety. This approach uses sound techniques to slow down, halt and eliminate your own learned reactions. Ultimately, CBT deals with those circumstances and events that you’re aware of, rather than dealing with circumstances and events relating to your unconscious. Through a sound therapeutic process, you’ll learn to respond differently to issues and circumstances, and you’ll learn healthy coping mechanisms.

What will I get out of treatment for phobias with Insight Psychological?

If a phobia of any kind is affecting your life, please know that you’re not alone – phobias are very common and it’s estimated that 1 in every 10 people in Canada are dealing with a phobia of some sort. Our therapists at Insight can help you to alleviate the symptoms caused by anxiety from the phobia. You do not have to live under the control of a phobia – we can help. Working together with your therapist, you will find ways to deal with and to overcome your phobia through a proven treatment method that works for you.