My heart starts to race. It feels like it’s going to explode. My throat closes and I’m having trouble breathing. My palms are sweating now, and my head is dizzy. I feel like I might fall, I want to run, but I don’t know where…
This reaction is a way to describe what people feel when they are suffering from a phobia. A phobia is an intense, ridiculous amount of fear of something or a situation that is far from what really could happen. Phobias affect people of all ages. The National Institute of Mental Health has stated that 5.1%-12.5% of all American’s encounter some sort of phobia. They are the most common psychiatric illness among women of all ages and men over 25.
When someone has a phobia, they start to feel panic, dread, or anxious when they are near what they are afraid of and they feel relieved when they avoid it. There is a phobia for just about everything. But, mental health professionals group them into three categories. Specific, social and agora. The two phobias I am going to discuss are all specific phobias. Specific phobias are simple and the most common.
More of us are traveling by plane these days, but that doesn’t mean we’ll enjoy the trip. “A United airlines jumbo jet hit massive air turbulence over the pacific, killing one woman and injuring 102 people.” A news report like this can be all it takes to have the fear to fly. One of the most common phobias in the world is fear of flying. Acrophobias mainly worry that the plane could crash, and they might die. US airs fearful flyer program is a great way to overcome aerophobia. Every year US airs offers this program in cities across the US. These classes are taught by a clinical social worker, and a pilot, that help people through aviation education, relaxation techniques, and a short flight.
A woman named Hillary decided one day to try a treatment sort of like the program offered by US airs. As a kid, Hillary loved to go on airplanes. “I loved the smell of jet fuel, the peanuts, the playing cards, the free cans of coke” explains Hillary. One day, when she was about twenty, she was on a rocky flight and began to panic. She was afraid she was going to die during the flight. After that, she tried different things to help her through a flight, such as carrying good-luck charms or sitting in certain spots on the plane. Four years later, she realized that she had a phobia and enrolled in a three-day workshop called “freedom from fear”. The goal of her group of twelve people was to fly from New York to Boston and back by the third day of the workshop. They learned technical information about flying, and practiced ways to get rid of their fears, such as breathing and relaxing. They also explored the controls, opened the doors and windows and walked around on the plane to feel more comfortable. On the third day everyone took the trip and did fine. After other flights since then, Hillary says she is not crazy about flying, but its not as bad a before.
So, we’re not all afraid of the same thing, but you know that feeling, when your hesitant for a split second at the tip of a steep track after a long, slow climb. You know what’s about to happen and there’s no way to avoid it now. You grip the handrail, palms sweating, heart pounding and brace yourself for the wild ride down. Most of us have experienced that sudden rush of fear, and get a thrill out of it. But, people who suffer from Coaster phobia, the fear of roller coasters, try to avoid it.
So, what is it that you have that intense, ridiculous amount of fear for? Phobias affect people of all ages, so you’re not alone. There are therapies out there to help. Why live your whole live avoiding something you might have enjoyed?