Everyone feels scared at times. But sometimes, fear can come up in a situation that isn’t expected. This fear stops us from going about our usual routines or working towards our goals. Phobias and panic disorder are two examples of mental health conditions that can lead to these problems.
What are phobias?
A phobia is an intense fear of a specific thing like an object, animal, or situation. We all feel scared of certain things at times in our lives, but phobias are different. People change the way they live in order to avoid the feared object or situation. For example, many people feel nervous about flying, but they will still go on a plane if they need to. Someone who experiences a phobia around flying may not even go to an airport. Phobias can affect relationships, school, work or career opportunities, and daily activities.
What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a feeling of intense fear or terror that lasts for a short period of time. It involves physical sensations like a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, shaking, sweating or nausea. Some people feel like they’re having a heart attack or suffocating, or fear that they are dying. However, a panic attack goes away on its own.
Panic attacks can be a normal reaction to a stressful situation or a part of another mental health condition. With panic disorder, panic attacks seem to happen for no reason. People who experience panic disorder fear more panic attacks and may worry that something bad will happen as a result of the panic attack. They may avoid places, sensations, or activities that remind them of a panic attack.
Some people avoid any situation where they can’t escape or find help. They may avoid public places or even avoid leaving their home. This is called agoraphobia.
Who do they affect?
Anyone can experience panic disorder or a phobia. No one knows exactly what causes phobias or panic disorder, but they are likely caused by a combination of life experiences, family history, and experiences of other physical or mental health conditions.
What intervention is available?
Most people who experience problems with anxiety recognize that their fears are irrational but don’t think they can do anything to control them. The good news is that there are interventions available for those living with anxiety disorders. Recovery isn’t about eliminating anxiety. It’s about managing anxiety so individuals can live a fulfilling life.