Phobias – What are they and when might you need to seek treatment?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. We all experience it at some point in time. At certain times it can even be beneficial and allow us to perform at our peak. But when does it become detrimental to our health and wellbeing? In this video, I chat with psychologist, Maddie Stoddart, about what phobias are and when someone might want to consider seeking treatment for one.

Danielle McCarthy:  Anxiety is one of those things, it’s very common and a lot of us have different anxieties and maybe even anxiety like a phobia. For example, I really don’t like spiders. I’m not going to go hold one. How does somebody know when it’s actually a problem and maybe something that they need to seek support for versus something that they’ve got, but don’t necessarily need to seek support for? I have never sought support for my dislike of spiders.

Madeleine Stoddart:  Yes, okay.

So it’s the intensity of that fear. Just like anything, phobias and fears are on a spectrum from mild to severe.

If you have a mild phobia, it might be manageable and that might be okay for you… maybe you just don’t go hiking in a forest full of spiders. But let’s go back to the example about someone who is afraid of heights. If you have a severe phobia of heights, you would avoid everything to do with heights. It would be very obvious to others around you. You would accommodate, plan for it. You might go,

‘Okay, I’m going on a holiday but I’m not going to book an apartment above the third floor. I need a building that only has stairs. I can’t go anywhere where there’s windows.’

Whereas, if you just had a mild fear you would go, ‘I don’t like it, but I’ll do it.’ So the intensity of the fear and how much it’s actually impacting on your life. Are you planning your life around that fear?

Danielle McCarthy:  Great. So my fear of spiders doesn’t really impact my life on a day-to-day basis. But for somebody with an intense fear or phobia it might be impacting their day-to-day life, their functioning, or their relationships in some way. Is that right?

Madeleine Stoddart:  That’s right, yes.