Phobia disorder is an extreme anxiety which makes an individual experience irrational fear of objects, situations, places or living creatures. Igamba John, a Mental Health and clinical officer at Health Professional call center, says that this condition causes horrific pain, which makes an individual to operate abnormally when confronted with the source of their phobia. “The person will experience intense distress when faced with the source of their fear which prevents them from functioning normally and sometimes leads to panic attack.” Igamba stated.
Research shows that 19 million people have this condition globally, with women being two times more prone than males. Although there are no specific reasons for phobias, psychotherapists have identified a number of elements that may contribute to the development of phobias: negative experiences, such as traumatic events and the environment, at the same time being passed down genetically in a family.
Rodgers Omuya a psychiatric clinician at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital (KTRH) elaborates on causes of phobia that “The commonest ones we say familial or genetics where by you find if someone in your family had a certain phobia, there are high chances that a member from that family is going to have similar problem, environmental factors like experiences from the environment for instance a child being bullied at school and marital issues can trigger phobia disorder.” Said Omuya.
The majority of people develop this problem in early childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. “It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of 30 years, and most begin during early childhood, the teenage years, or early adulthood.” Igamba explained the age when phobia starts to develop.
Common types of phobia include specific phobia, agoraphobia and social phobia. Specific phobia tends to be an irrational fear of a specific trigger which develops from the age of 4-8 years, while agoraphobia is fear of a situation: leaving the comfort of home, shopping in a mall, traveling by airplane, or simply being in a crowded area.
Social phobia is an intense, persistent anxiety of being watched and judged by others. It can affect your work, school, and other day-to-day activities that call for interactions and dialog, making it difficult to keep friends.
Sylvester Mwangi, a resident in Nairobi, he finds it uncomfortable to speak to a mass audience or even interacting with strangers but he is working so hard to change. “I always have this fear of talking to strangers like in a crowded audience, whenever I find myself in this situation I fear being judged but I am trying to change this behavior.” Mwangi said.
Riziki Omweri, a University student, she always have the fear of imperfection, a reason why she would want things to be arranged in a certain way. “I strive for everything to be perfect that even if it is in simple things like utensils, I wouldn’t want even a cup to be out of place when I already arranged it in a specific order.”Riziki stated. This condition is normally described as atelophobia or phobia of imperfection which makes an individual to fight being perfect in certain situations.
For Johnson Ndung’u who lives in Nakuru, he has fear of failure and that of losing friends, “for me I think I fear failure which makes me work so hard and that of losing friends, I like maintaining friendships.”Ndung’u highlighted whatever makes him anxious.
In return, patients with this condition often shape their lives to avoid what they consider to be harmful. Dr Igamba John explains how phobia alters the brain of a victim. “In most cases, when you have phobia, your brains always changes how it works, some areas of the brain store and recall dangerous or potential deadly events, if a person faces a similar event later on in life, those areas of the brain retrieve the stressful memory, sometimes more than once. This causes the body to experience the same reaction .In a phobia, the areas of the brain that deals with fear and stress keep retrieving the event inappropriately.”
Phobia disorder will always make an individual to experience different symptoms which include: a sensation of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear, a feeling that the source of fear must be avoided at all cost, being unable to function properly when exposed to the trigger and acknowledgement that the fear is irrational, unreasonable and exaggerated, combined with an inability to control the feelings
At this stage, a person is required to see a doctor, a psychologist in that matter after experiencing these symptoms for six months and if at all their normal behavior is affected.
“Before it can be called phobia, a person must have had symptoms of phobia for at least six months and have had an impact on their functioning; then they need treatment.”Omuya stated while clarifying the two therapy options. “There are two methods of treatment: psychotherapy, which is a psychological session led by a psychologist, and medication which is used to ease acute symptoms, although psychotherapy is the most successful approach of dealing with phobia.”
Igamba encourages people with phobia to practice different techniques for them to get rid of this condition: relaxation techniques which includes breathing exercise that helps one to relax during times of heightened stress, visualization techniques that involves exercises that allows a person to mentally visualize how to successfully cope with a situation that can trigger anxiety and lastly self-help groups which to share what you are going through with people.
Omuya on other hand , advises parents to expose their children to anything that makes them uncomfortable if they have a fear, “For a youngster who is unable to attend a psychotherapy session, we call for exposure to objects and situations that they are afraid of; over time, and they will be able to overcome their phobia.”Omuya said.
A person may develop other mental illnesses such as depression, and constant anxiety may cause blood pressure to fluctuate and become abnormal over time; as a result, it is recommended that a person get medical assistance from a clinical psychologist.
Addressing phobia once it has been recognized, speaking with a psychologist or psychiatrist is a good first step. Igamba therefore, advises victims to seek help “Phobia can be a source of genuine and ongoing distress for an individual and it is treatable and very often the source of fear is avoidable, for this reason, one should be ready to seek help.”
There is no single treatment that is effective for everyone who suffers from a phobia. Treatment must be individualized to the individual in order to be effective. Behavioral treatment, drugs, or a mix of both may be recommended by the doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist to reduce fear and anxiety.