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Phobias: don't be afraid to read more

What do snakes, spiders and skyscrapers have in common? They are unwittingly leading the list of human phobias. Fear can stop people from travelling, having unique experience and – in extreme cases – from fully enjoying their lives. But why do we develop phobias and how can we get rid of them? 

Know your enemy

Image courtesy of Vinoth Chandar

Accelerated breathing and heart rate, goose bumps, dry mouth, back and forehead soaked in sweat: these are the symptoms of fear, a fast chain of reactions activated in response to a dangerous situation. They make our bodies and minds ready for action, ready to respond quickly. Fear turns into phobia when it goes beyond normal boundaries and perceptions of the danger are irrational and exaggerated. The result is an unpleasant and extreme feeling of panic followed by uncontrollable reactions. It is calculated that 1 out of 10 people suffer from a phobia. According to scientists, some of phobias, like snakes, come from our ancestral background that we share with primates. However, in most of the cases, phobias are results of childhood trauma or are transmitted to the child by phobic parents.

Terror top 5

Image courtesy of Sez9       

Spiders are the champions of all phobias. Even if harmless for humans, these little insects represent the number one enemy of any phobic. According to some theories the so called Arachnophobia could be related to spiders' quick and unpredictable movements or to a more understandable disgust for their appearance. At the second position of this scaring list we find snakes. In this case scientists have been able to establish a possible evolutionary link between this creeping fear and the risks they represent for humans. Snakes are followed by the fear to climb up on a mountain or to bend over a window in the edge of a 30 floors building. Like for snakes, a fear of heights is thought to be a primordial fear that we share with mammals and domestic animals. Agoraphobia comes forth. It is the fear of situation where escaping is difficult. A crowded area, open space, shopping malls, airports, can all trigger an escalation of panic in some people. Ironically, man’s best friend is in the triad of the most dreaded animals. The Cynophobia or fear of dogs closes our top 5 list. Our faithful and beloved four-legged friend can become source of despair for some people that have been bitten or attacked by them once in their life.

You are not alone

Image courtesy of Wikicommons

Phobia has nothing to do with our bravery and audacity. According to historians, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of French feared cats. The brave politician and Army leader wasn’t so fearless as a simple meow could make his blood run cold. The first American President, George Washington was so afraid of premature burial that on his deathbed requested to his attendants to wait 2 days before being buried. Even the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, had some skeletons in his closet. While he was playing with some of the most common fears like the heights' one on in the movie Vertigo, he was chilled to the bone by eggs. Other strange phobias include: snow(Chionophobia), long words (Sesquipedalophobia), Friday the 13th (paraskevidekatriaphobia), fear of buttons (Koumpounophobia).

Some tips to win your fear

Image courtesy of Jamie Campbell

Phobias are common and if your fears don’t impact your life that much, there is nothing to be concerned about. Self-help strategies and therapy can both help, however a DIY treatment is always worth to try. The golden rule is to gradually expose yourself to what you are more afraid of: photos, videos can help to climb the first step on your phobia’s ladder. In this way you will slowly learn how to keep under control your physical reactions. Try to relax, control your breath and learn to release your muscles. This path will take you to the hardest part of your treatment: challenge negative thoughts. Try to rationalise your negative and unrealistic ideas and think about the final goal. Are you on a plane and the fear is overwhelming you? Think about the sunny beach you will lay on in few hours or the friends you will meet once landed. In short, don’t let your phobias stop you from enjoy your life, discover, travel. 

By Cristina Nanni

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