Fear or Phobia?
I remember when I was 16 years old, I was taking an early morning shower before school. It was about 6 am and I was enjoying the quiet while the rest of the household was still asleep. I hadn't put my contacts in yet and have very poor vision, so when I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye I didn't immediately panic. I leaned in closer and that's when it happened. A freaking centipede jumped on me!!! (I know it didn't jump but it really seemed like it did at the time!) I started screaming and crying, running through the house naked and soaking wet without concern about who would see me or how they would react to my hysteria. Even retelling this story causes a certain level of anxiety for me. My heart is beating a little faster, I have butterflies in my stomach and I feel more on edge. The intense fear I felt at the time has stayed with me all these years. Phobias are intense and irrational fears of things or situations that in fact pose no actual danger. There are four identified categories of phobias; animal phobias, situational phobias, blood-injection phobias and natural environment phobias. Examples include fear of spiders, heights, shots, tornados, flying, etc. Most of us have a least one or two fears that we know are irrational but continue to bother us. So when is a phobia diagnosable? How can you know if you should seek treatment?
Even though my reaction to the centipede was on the extreme side (keep in mind, I was a teenager), my fear would not result in a diagnosis by a therapist. Why? A phobia must affect your life significantly in order for you to be diagnosed by a therapist. Luckily, I didn't come into contact with centipedes regularly in my youth so my fear was not really disruptive to my life. But, if I turned down a high paying job as a plumber because of my fear, it would be considered a true phobia. It is common to have fears that affect us, but when they prevent us from keeping a job, relationship or home, fears are considered phobias.
If you are seeking treatment for a phobia, here are four facts for you to consider:
Avoidance is not the answer