Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine the following situations: gasping for breathe in a crowded or closed place, trembling with fear prior to public speaking, panicking with dread be seeing heights and water, experiencing palpitations and profuse sweating by seeing animals… Well, you must be thinking that what is so great or wrong in all these stuff, right? As in what is wrong with closed places, water, innocent animals, heights or public places??? Well, for many people it may seem silly, but those are the difficult symptoms one goes through when he/she experiences phobic episodes.
Phobia is technically defined as an intense, irrational fear. You can develop phobia towards animals, insects, heights, water, closed places, public places and virtually anything that has the potentiality to trigger phobia within you. Before telling you the brain chemistry related to phobia, let me take you towards a quick tour on the causes and symptoms of phobia.
Causes of Phobia
- Genetic Causes: If there is a family history of phobia
- Observational Learning/Modeling: Sometimes one tends to develop phobia by seeing others reacting with intense fear towards a particular thing or situation.
- Life Events: If a life event is too traumatic to bear, then the event or similar situations related to it can potentially trigger phobia symptoms.
- Problems in coping: Lack or ineffective coping with different life events and situations can also cause phobia
- Apprehensions and anxiety: Sometimes phobia is also created due to our speculations or apprehensions, without the situation/thing being a threat in reality.
- Abnormalities in the brain: Maladaptive functioning of the brain chemicals or neurobiological elements can also trigger phobia.
Symptoms of Phobia
- Palpitations, shortness of breathe
- Profuse sweating
- Frequent urination
- Changes in sleep and diet patterns
- Intense fear
- Feelings of anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Depressive feelings
So folks, we looked into the basics of phobia, its causes and its symptoms. Though phobia is caused by genetic factors, situational factors and so on, abnormalities in the brain chemistry or functioning also leads to phobic reactions in some cases. Let me tell you how:
We all have a brain center known as “amygdala”. Its shape is like an almond. It is linked to the brain’s perception of fear. Amygdala has an area called, lateral nucleus. This lateral nucleus is associated with fear responses. The amygdala is also a storehouse of emotional memories too. So what goes wrong and causes the brain to cause phobic reactions in an individual? Subsequent studies and findings have shown that brain lesions and damage to the amygdala cause phobia to a significant level. Other brain areas related to phobic causes or reactions are hypothalamus, hippocampus, and brain stem and so on. Damage to those areas due to any accident or medical cause can trigger specific phobias of different kinds.
Phobia caused due to abnormal functions of the brain is usually treated through an amalgamation of psychotherapies and biomedical drugs. Gone are the days when irrational intense fear was considered as untreatable and overwhelming to bear. Today, advancement in the treatment models of psychological disorders has changed the entire scenario of treatment and well-being. With the help of professional help you can deal with phobia in an effective manner and lead a normal life ‘n’ lifestyle. In the beginning, things may seem devastating to bear and overcome. But, once the treatment process starts, the road to recovery becomes smooth and steady.
“When you explore your fears then you set yourself free.” – Stephen Richards, Releasing You from Fear