"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."
---- German Proverb
The word "phobia" is derived from the Greek work phobos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear." It is the irrational and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, objects or people. The fear is often beyond one's control and interferes with daily life.
Speaking as someone with her share of phobias, I can tell you, it's not just being afraid, and it is not something you can just "get over." It the heart-pounding, palms sweating, nauseating fear that if you come in contact with a certain type of situation, place or person, etc., something bad WILL happen. Forget trying to rationalize with someone experiencing a phobia. No matter how trivial or laughable it is to you, it is very real to the person experiencing it.
Some common phobias are Acrophobia- fear of heights, Coulrophobia- fear of clowns, and Gephyrophobia or Gephydrophobia- fear of crossing bridges. I also happen to have all of these and a few more. I have had these phobias most of my life, with some getting better with age and some getting worse.
Imagine being a passenger in a car and actually holding on tight to the door and closing your eyes when going over a bridge! Why? I have no idea. It's not like I'm going anywhere that the car isn't. This phobia is so intense I actually have nightmares that I'm falling out of the car and into a body of water beneath me. I suppose this phobia is that much more intense because I don't drive. (That's another phobia I have, a form of Agoraphobia, fear of open spaces)
Now imagine almost strangling your own father (whom I trust with my life) when he is trying to teach you to float! My Hydrophobia causes me to have a deep mistrust for water. In my mind I know it's possible to float, but when it comes down to it I just cannot get myself to believe it. I've missed out on a lot of activities in my life that I'm sure I would've enjoyed, had I not had Hydrophobia. (To this day I can't bring myself to let anyone teach me to swim!)
Some treatments are: Counter Conditioning, where the patient is trained to substitute relaxation for fear. The patient is then exposed to the stimulus (what's causing the phobia) little by little. This treatment did not seem to work for me.
Another one is Exposure Therapy, which is similar to Counter Conditioning, but you are exposed to the stimulant all at once. This treatment also did not work for me. My psychologist suggested I try this for my fear of heights (Acrophobia). So I went to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. I was supposed to go on rides such as the Giant Drop (although I'm not sure that ride is there anymore) and other rides that go up very high. Bad idea! My Acrophobia got worse after that. But I'm confident that someday I will find a treatment that works for me.
So if you know someone who has a phobia, please keep in mind that it is VERY real and terrifying to them. They're not just being weak or wimpy. Some psychologists suggest a genetic link. I believe this, as my father has some of the same phobias I do. Another theory is that phobias develop as a direct result of a traumatic experience in life. This is also possible, but not in my case.
Whatever the phobia and whatever the underlying cause, if you suffer from this condition, you are not alone and you are not crazy. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to discuss it with your doctor and seek help.