Phobias & Obsessions

A phobia can be defined as a fear and/or avoidance of an object, activity, or situation that the individual knows is out of proportion to the actual danger that that object, activity, or situation poses. Phobic disorders are very common and fall into three types, based on the nature of the object or situation that produces the fear: Simple phobias involve a fear of particular objects or situations, such as heights, the dark, moths, or small spaces. Social phobias involve a fear of being watched or evaluated by others and a belief that the individual will, in some way, appear foolish. This results in avoidance of such situations as eating in front of others or going to parties or meetings. Agoraphobia involves a fear of being unable to escape quickly or reach help in the event of sudden incapacitation, commonly a panic attack. These situations include going to malls, using public transport, and generally being alone.

Obsessions are ideas, thoughts, images, or impulses that are senseless and "get in the way." They continue even though a person may try to ignore or forget about them. They are experienced as unpleasant and unwanted and may provoke anxiety, guilt or shame. Compulsions, also called rituals, are usually actions that are repeated, but sometimes are thought patterns that are performed to rid oneself of a disturbing obsession. Rituals are usually carried out according to certain rules or in a rigid fashion and are clearly excessive. The person recognizes that the rituals are not reasonable but feels unable to control them. People who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tend do rituals such as handwashing, repeating or checking in order to get rid of scary obsessions.

Both phobias and OCD can be treated very successfully with psychological intervention.

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