• Beata Stanova

The Ultimate Guide to Phobias & Phobia Treatments Using Virtual Reality


Phobias are classified among anxiety disorders because they are based on fear. That is what a phobia is actually, an exaggerated fear. We all feel scared from time to time, however, having a phobia can interfere with your day to day life. Let’s take the fear of heights for example. There is a difference between getting a bit queasy when you’re on top of the Empire state building and refusing to go to a job interview because the office is on the 27th floor.

It’s been suggested that more than 10 million Americans suffer from some sort of phobia. What are people with phobias usually afraid of? It can be anything from needles, seeing blood, heights, snakes or even social situations. Some phobias are very well known such as claustrophobia – the fear of small spaces. While others, like Alektorophobia– which is the fear of chickens – are a bit less known. There are some other really weird phobias out there, but we’ll get back to that later in the article.

Phobias can limit your everyday life

We all have some things that we find scary but phobias take the fear to a whole another level. A person with a phobia feels strong, irrational, even paralysing fear, which often interferes with his or hers day to day life. Let’s say Sophie is suffering from Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders. Purely the thought of a spider is enough to trigger Sophie’s fear. If she sees a spider in real life, she might even have a panic attack. Having a panic attack, by the way? Not really something you would like to experience… The symptoms include: pounding heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness. You feel like you’re losing control over your body and you may start fearing death. For Sophie, all of this can be triggered by a tiny spider.

How are phobias treated

One way of curing phobias is the use of cognitive behavioural therapy – CBT for short. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps the patient to recognise the problem, gain a better understanding of the behaviour and to use problem-solving skills to cope with the difficult situation. Through CBT the patient learns how to face his fears instead of avoiding them and also how to calm him mind and body.

Another way of treating phobias is through exposure therapy. This does not mean that Sophie would be locked in a room with a tarantula. Just the thought of a spider made her feel uneasy remember? This means that through a series of steps Sophie would slowly get closer and closer to a real-life spider.

Using virtual reality to treat phobias

Today, phobias can even be cured with the use of Virtual Reality. Clinics such as Phobius in Vienna are making this possible. In this way the patients can come into life-like contact with their fears without actually being exposed to any danger. And Sophie could come close to a spider even without having a spider in the room.

With a bit of help, even battling with a phobia can have a happy ending. But of course, I wouldn’t end this article without letting you know some more hard-to-believe yet real phobias that are out there.

Top 5 weird phobias:

5. Numerophobia – The fear of numbers and the mere thought of calculations.

4. Coasterphobia – The fear of roller coasters.

3. Globophobia – The fear of balloons. Sometimes the balloon itself, sometime the fact that it may pop.

2. Pogonophobia – The fear of beards or being scared of/around bearded men. (Damn these hipsters...)

1. Bananaphobia – The fear of bananas.

The list of phobias can be endless. What people are afraid of is also highly individual and let’s admit it – it’s a scary world out there. Nonetheless, the treatments of phobias prove one thing, working on yourself and facing your fears will give you a happier life full of new possibilities.

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/figuring.aspx

http://anxietytreatmentclinic.com/blog/panic-attack-dsm-v-revisions/

https://www.phobius.at/

http://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy.aspx

https://www.fearof.net/

#fears

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