Do psychiatrists work with phobias?

Phobias are irrational fears that affect a person’s behaviour or thoughts. A person with a phobia is worried about a particular situation or object in their environment.

People with phobias often find it difficult to talk to others about their fears. However, a psychiatrist can help people with phobias learn to cope with their fears.

Psychiatrists can also help people with phobias to change certain behaviours or thoughts. For example, a person with a fear of spiders may be told to only work in a office with no spiders.

Are there different types of phobias?

There are several types of phobias.

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety. People with GAD have a generalised fear of an activity or situation. They may feel anxious all of the time, or only occasionally.
  • Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a specific phobia can’t control or predict what triggers their fear.
  • Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. People with this disorder have a fear of facing people they don’t know very well, or speaking in a group.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. People with OCD can’t stop their thoughts or actions from being obsessive and compulsive.

How common are phobias?

In the United States, it’s estimated that about 17% of adults have a phobia. This is higher than the 9% who have anxiety.

However, a person may experience one type of phobia and not another.

What are the symptoms of phobias?

A person with a phobia might:

  • Feel ill or on edge
  • Have difficulty thinking clearly
  • Avoid situations in which they have a fear
  • Avoid particular situations
  • Find themselves unable to leave home or be around other people
  • Have a strong desire to escape the phobia
  • Be unable to sleep
  • Have problems concentrating

A person with a phobia might also:

  • Avoid situations they fear
  • Avoid people they fear
  • Have a reduced interest in life
  • Have a constant feeling of tiredness or stress
  • Feel anxious and upset when they see or think about the phobia
  • Feel very tired and depressed

How are phobias diagnosed?

A psychiatrist will ask questions about a person’s symptoms and any other factors that may be causing the person’s symptoms.

For example, a person may mention a fear of spiders. A psychiatrist may ask questions to rule out any other possible causes of the person’s symptoms.

If a person with a phobia has a family history of anxiety disorders, they may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

If a person has a history of panic attacks, they may be diagnosed with a panic disorder.

If a person has a family history of other anxiety disorders, they may be diagnosed with another disorder.

How are phobias treated?

A person with a phobia can have a fear or anxiety disorder. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder may be afraid of public speaking, or they may be afraid of a particular situation.

The first step to treating a phobia is to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist. A person with the phobia can then be referred to a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists often use a combination of talk therapy and medication. For example, a person may be given cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and then medication to help them manage their phobia.

A person may also be given a combination of medication and talk therapy. This is known as ‘complementary and alternative medicine’ (CAM).

The goal of talk therapy is to help a person understand their phobia and make the behaviour less frequent. The goal of medication is to tackle the underlying cause of the phobia.

For example, a person may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication to help them cope with their phobia.

A person might also be prescribed a medication that helps relieve their symptoms such as a sleep aid. They may also be given a medication to help them relax, such as a benzodiazepine.

How can I support someone with a phobia?

A person can also seek help from a phobia support group. These groups can help people with similar fears and anxiety disorders.

For example, a person with a fear of spiders might attend a spider group. The aim of the group is to help people overcome their fear and develop coping strategies.

A person can also talk to their psychiatrists or psychologists about support groups. A doctor can also advise on how to cope with a phobia.

If a person is experiencing severe anxiety or panic attacks, they should contact the National Health Service (NHS) 111 Helpline for support.

This is an anonymous service that provides support to people in the UK.

When should I see a doctor?

A person should see a doctor if they have a fear of public speaking or fear of a particular situation. They should see a doctor if they have a fear of other people.

A doctor can recommend a psychiatrist or psychologist who can help them learn to manage their phobia.

A doctor can also help a person who has a fear of going out in public by suggesting ways to avoid it.

A doctor can also advise on how a person can manage anxiety.

How can I help someone who is worried about a phobia?

A person can talk to their doctor or psychologist about ways to help them overcome their phobia.

A doctor or psychologist can also advise on how a person can manage anxiety.

People can also ask their GP about ways to help them manage their fears.

What is the outlook if I have a phobia?

Having a phobia can be very distressing, but it doesn’t mean that a person will have another anxiety disorder. There are many treatments available.

A person can find support from their family and friends. They can also talk to doctors or psychologists.

Summary

A phobia is a fear or anxiety disorder. This includes having a fear of public speaking or fear of a particular situation.

There are many ways to manage phobias, and a person will be able to find support from their family and friends

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