Why are some people not afraid
Phobias, panic and anxiety disorders
The word phobia is derived from the Greek "phobos", which means fear or fear. Doctors consider phobia to be a type of anxiety disorder, which also includes panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder.
If a patient suffers from panic disorders, he will have panic attacks again and again, that is, he is very afraid without a specific trigger.
While such an attack usually lasts ten to 30 minutes, the fear of a generalized anxiety disorder lasts for several months without the person concerned being able to get rid of it permanently. This form of disorder is usually not triggered by specific situations or objects.
A person who suffers from a phobia, on the other hand, is afraid of very specific things or events. Those affected are aware that their fear is completely unfounded and incomprehensible to outsiders. Even so, they fail to break free from their fears. Researchers distinguish three types of phobias: social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobias.
Social phobia - fear of criticism
People who suffer from this disorder fear negative assessments of their environment. They are afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of others and being criticized for doing so, for example at a lecture or a meal together. It often affects people who already have low self-esteem.
The phobia can only relate to a clearly defined situation. For example, some people shy away from signing in front of others because they fear that their hand could shake.
In extreme cases, however, a social phobia can also spread to all areas of life, so that hardly any contact with the outside world is possible. Those affected are then no longer even able to make a dentist appointment or ask someone for directions.
Frequent consequences or side effects of social phobia are depression and alcoholism. In addition, some affected people develop compulsive acts such as compulsory cleaning in order to meet the assumed requirements of their environment.
Agoraphobia - when strolling around town becomes torture
Agoraphobia is also known as claustrophobia, but should not be confused with claustrophobia, i.e. the fear of confined spaces. Rather, those affected fear situations that they can only avoid with difficulty or under embarrassing circumstances in the event of a panic attack. What is particularly frightening for them is the idea of losing control of themselves in public, falling over and lying helpless on the ground.
These fears occur, for example, in public places, in crowds and when traveling. Even a shopping spree, a trip on public transport or a visit to the cinema can be torture for those affected. They therefore usually try to avoid these situations and in some cases completely isolate themselves from their outside world.
Specific phobias are characterized by the fact that a person is afraid of a clearly defined situation or a certain object. The most common forms include fear of animals (e.g. dogs, snakes or spiders), claustrophobia, fear of heights, fear of flying or fear of infection with a dangerous disease.
The goosebumps that many people get when they see a large spider are not a phobia. Fear is only seen as pathological if it restricts everyday activities and relationships.
Causes of Phobias
Researchers do not yet know what causes a phobia in individual cases. Possible explanations are, for example, psychoanalysis, learning theory and genetics.
For example, psychoanalysis assumes that the phobia arises as a result of an internal conflict on the part of the person concerned. In order to avoid this conflict, it is shifted to the outside in the form of a phobia. The phobic person projects his inner fears onto a certain object.
The learning theory, on the other hand, says that fear can be taken over by another person, i.e. can be learned. For example, if a mother is terrified of spiders, this can also be carried over to her children through the example she experiences every day.
Another trigger for a phobia can be the genetic predisposition of the person concerned. However, experts agree that in most cases there is more than one factor responsible for a disease. This usually only occurs when several causes come together.
Once a phobia is recognized as such, in most cases it can be treated well. Experts usually recommend a combination of psychotherapy and medication such as tranquilizers or antidepressants.
In the field of psychotherapy, behavior therapy, which works with so-called confrontation methods, is particularly popular. This means that the person concerned consciously exposes himself to the situation that he is afraid of and that he has avoided so far. Through this he sees that he is in no danger at all and can thus gradually learn to overcome fear.
Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or group therapy can also contribute to healing. However, there is no magic formula. An individual therapy program must be developed for each patient, depending on the clinical picture.
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