There's Nothing Simple About My Phobia

Changing jobs, moving to a new neighborhood, visiting relatives or joining a civic club are all positive experiences - yet each can bring about sweaty palms and that dry mouth feeling.

As much as you wanted that new home, there’s a surprising stomach churning sensation as you sign the mortgage papers. That’s called feeling anxious. In a matter of minutes or days, the anxious feeling passes. The fact that it passes shows the difference between anxiousness and anxiety.

When anxious feelings seem to come out of nowhere and linger for no logical reason, that’s a sign of an anxiety disorder. It’s more than anticipation or nervous tension. Anxiety disorder is a broad term for a variety of conditions that no amount of willpower or “just get over it” advice can change.

When the anxiety is focused on a certain idea or situation, it’s called a simple or specific phobia. If you have this condition, then you know it doesn’t feel “simple” at all. While someone else may shriek in temporary fright at an insect crawling across the floor, if you have a phobia about bugs, you will feel intense fear that a bug may be lurking around the corner - even if none are in sight.

Whether or not there’s a real threat from the feared object or situation, you’re immobilized and overwhelmed with alarm. You may even know in your mind that the fear isn't real - and you really want to overcome it.

One in ten adults has some kind of specific or simple phobia. Common phobias are the fear of heights, bridges, flying, crowds, animals or lightening. Childhood phobias often end by adolescence - but those that start in teen or young adult years are much more persistent.

You may have just tried to avoid whatever you’re afraid of rather than seek professional help. Two types of therapy, behavioral and cognitive, work well with phobias. Behavioral therapy ignores why the fear is there or how bad it feels and simply gets you to change how you respond to the fear.

Having a new response trumps the old reaction. Instead of standing at the elevator door hyperventilating, take the stairs and call it additional aerobic exercise. Cognitive therapy is about changing false beliefs and the way you talk to yourself.

When a feared situation occurs, you stop the repeated thought, “I'm going to have an anxiety attack” and replace it with, “I am scared but I’m not actually in danger and I can walk away.” There’s no instant cure for these phobias, yet with persistence you can reclaim control of your life.

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