Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unlearn Your Fear

Just came back from my routine night swim. Satisfied.

Swimming at night is not out of preference. On a typical weekday, I am usually left with a few hours at the end of the day. I can choose to swim at night or not to swim. It is matter of choice.

Actually, night swim is a fairly recent thing to me for I have been living with an unexplained fear of water at night. Somehow, I got over that. Perhaps, it was because my fear was not too chronic to begin with. However, it is usually not so easy to overcome phobia of any kind.

Yes, phobia, that crippling word.

A phobia, ("fear" in Greek), is an abnormal, persistent fear of situations, objects, activities, or persons. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject.

There are many types of phobia. Some are understandable and some appear weird. Just like any psychological conditions, the degree of phobia varies and it can be so bad that it affects our quality of life.

It is not difficult to imagine why a person has fear of height (Hypsiphobia), blood (Hematophobia) or ghosts (Phasmophobia). It is perhaps harder to appreciate when it comes to fear of hearing good news (Euphobia) or flowers (Anthophobia).

When you are not suffering from a particular phobia, it can be funny, odd or even annoying to see someone else reacting to his/her phobia. However, if you put your judgment aside, all phobias are the same from the psychological point of view.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8.7% of people, or about 19.2 million American adults, suffer from one or more specific phobias. It is comforting to know that for I do have mine too. I will come to that shortly.

Apparently, top ten common phobias are listed as:

01. Acrophobia - Fear of Heights
02. Claustrophobia - Fear of Enclosed Spaces
03. Nyctophobia - Fear of the Dark
04. Ophidiophobia - Fear of Snakes
05. Arachnophobia - Fear of Spiders
06. Trypanophobia - Fear of Injection or Medical Needles
07. Astraphobia - Fear of Thunder and Lightning
08. Nosophobia - Fear of Having a Disease
09. Mysophobia AKA Germophobia - Fear of Germs
10. Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the Number 13

From the medical perspective, phobia is an irrational strong reaction towards certain subject, activity or situation. The affected person knows that the reaction is excessive but has little control over it.

In our lifetime, phobia may develop over time and it may come and go. Most of us cannot say for sure where our phobias come from. Here are some possible theories:

01. Nature & Nurture: It may run in your family (nature/genetic) or come from your environment (nurture).

02. Bad experience: Some people develop phobias after being exposed to traumatic or frightening events. For eg. you can develop fear of water after a near-drowning experience.

03. Warning: Children may receive frightening information or have been told to stay away from objects. This may have been done inadvertently. For eg. a child may develop a phobia for an animal after being warned persistently that it may cause harm.

04. Observation: A child may develop a phobia by observing hysterical adults responding to their fear. For eg. A child who constantly sees a screaming mom at the sight of spiders may develop the same phobia too.

It is probably not so helpful spending energy finding the root cause. What is important is learning how to manage the phobia, if you have one.

Step 1: Be Honest With Yourself

Tell yourself that it is OK to experience anxiety as this is nature's way to prepare you for danger. What is not OK here is that you feel the anxiety even when there is no real danger.

Step 2: Understand Your Phobia

Ask yourself what exactly frightens you. Is it the noise it makes? The way it moves? You need to get this right, otherwise, you may be solving the wrong problem.

Step 3: Be Realistic

Phobias are unrealistic fear, get it? Get the facts right and think rationally. For eg. Some people believe that the chance of a plane crash is high - get the statistics to reassure them. Remember, somehow, we have learnt our irrational fears therefore we can also unlearn them. Read more on 'Realistic Thinking'.

Step 4: Face Your Fears

To face your fears, you would have to be exposed to them. To do so, you gradually and repeatedly expose yourself to the feared object or situation in a safe an controlled way. This step requires courage and determination. Just look at it this way, if you can garner enough mental strength to get this through, you can use the same techniques to overcome other problems in life. Find out how you can face your fears.

Step 5: Learn To Relax

Learn some relaxation techniques. They can help you reduce your anxiety when you are about to face your phobic situation. For eg. you can learn to do Calm Breathing or Muscle Relaxation.

I know some of you are going to say "It's easier said than done." Don't! You have to start telling yourself that you can do it. You need some encouragement and there is no one who can do this better than you.

For me, I would have to work on my Scoliodentosaurophobia, i.e. the fear of lizards.

For some unknown reasons, I would freeze at the sight of a lizard. I know it does not make sense unless you too suffer from Scoliodentosaurophobia. Those house lizards pose no danger at all (has anyone ever died of a house lizard attack before?) but I would feel my vital organs stop working and the time stands still whenever they are around.

Ya, OK, I may be exaggerating but the truth is not very far from that. I look really ridiculous at the presence of a lizard and I do not like that. I believe I can work on my problem. I have to.

At the moment, when a lizard and I are in the same confinement, I would jump. Once I overcome my phobia, I believe it would the lizard's turn (we shall see!)

So, what are your phobias? Astraphobia (lightning)? Felinophobia (cat)? Batrachophobia (frog)? Dentophobia (dentist)? Phasmophobia (ghost)? Coulrophobia (clown)? Whatever it is, your fear can be overcome. You would just have to decide if you want to.

I can go on sharing more on phobia but I do not want you to develop a phobia for reading my blog. Let's look at something lighter to wrap up this 'fear factor' topic.
While I was searching for ways to overcome my phobias, I came across Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It is a scarily long word and ironically, it means the fear of long words. I had a good LOL moment.

Learn that word to impress or to scare someone!

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."
German Proverb

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1 comment:

Inspirational Quotes said...

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