The most common anxiety disorder is known as specific phobias. A phobia is an extreme fear of objects or situations that pose no real threat or danger. Our senses, brain, and body interact to react to real, life-threatening situations that cause serious injury or death.
Anxiety and fear are emotions that alert and prepare us for this danger. A phobia, on the other hand, is an anxiety reaction to a trigger that poses no immediate threat or danger.
Common phobias include heights, spiders, snakes, needles, flying, and blood. When confronted with one of these triggers, a person with a phobia experiences strong fear, despite being safe and out of harms way.
In many cases, the person recognizes that the trigger is harmless but continues to experience the fear. The situation or object has become associated with fear through classical conditioning, much like Pavlov’s dog.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective in helping to break the association using Exposure Therapy. Exposure therapy involves systematically confronting one’s fear to the object or situation in the absence of danger.
With the guidance of a specially trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and repeated trials, the person learns that they can encounter the fear trigger with decreased fear and anxiety. Most phobias can be successfully treated in a relatively short period of time.