October has begun, fall is in the air, and Halloween is on the way. Typical Halloween festivities range from costume parties, apple bobbing, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, telling ghost stories, and visiting haunted houses for the fun of fright. But for some people, frightening experiences are not fun, and fears become so severe that they interfere with normal life. That’s when fears become known as phobias.
A phobia is an extreme, often disabling fear of something, and while some are unheard of, many are well recognized. R. Reid Wilson PhD, the spokesman for the American Psychological Association, says that phobias are the most common mental disorder, with 11% of people suffering from a phobia in their lifetimes. “To be defined as a phobia, the fear must cause some level of impairment,” Wilson said.
Some physical symptoms and emotional signs of a phobia are:
- Trembling or shaking
- Difficulty breathing
- Fear of going crazy or losing control
- Knowing you’re overreacting, but feeling powerless to control the irrational fear
- Hot or cold flashes and tingling sensations
- Feeling that you’re going to pass out or die
The good news is, fear can be managed and even cured. Understanding your fear is the first step in overcoming and recovering from it. While there are a wide variety of treatments for phobias, simply changing the way you think can change the way you act, and changing the way you act can change the way you think.
You may want to consider professional treatment if you realize:
- Your fear is excessive or unreasonable
- You’ve experienced your phobia for six months or more
- You avoid some places, people, or situations because of your phobia, especially if this avoidance interferes with your normal routine or causes significant stress
The treatment that’s best for you will depend on the severity of your phobia and the amount of support you need, but reaching out for professional help may be an important first step in gaining power over your feelings of panic.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” October may be known as the month of fright, but instead, it can be the month you overcome your anxieties and begin to live in freedom from fear.