Phobia is a term for a psychiatric disorder that is extremely widespread. The word phobia comes from the Greek "phobos", which means fear (fear of specific subjects or situations).
It is not easy to track down the causative factors of phobias. A phobia may occur as a consequence of an unpleasant event that has happened in the past, typically in the childhood. The event may be forgotten but it influences the patient's subconsciousness. The suppressed memory then causes the phobia. However, it should be mentioned that the cause of phobia may be never found out.
The phobia manifests as a fear of a specific subject or situation. The victim is usually well aware about the irrationality of the fear, but despite that he is unable to overcome or control it. The fear may be very intensive and can result in a panic attack. Some phobias are harmless but others may seriously limit the patient's daily life. Well-known or at least interesting are for example the following phobias:
- Acrophobia – fear of heights
- Agoraphobia – fear of public spaces
- Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
- Aviophobia – fear of flying
- Hexaphobia – fear of the number six
- Claustrophobia – fear of small, enclosed spaces
- Mysophobia – fear of human society, fear of people
- Thanatophobia – fear of death
Phobias belong among psychiatric illnesses and therefore should be treated by psychologists and psychiatrics. Various methods of psychotherapy are used to teach the patient to cope with his fear and help him to overcome it. It is a long process that must be often supported by medication (antidepressants, anxiolytics). Some people have been successfully cured by hypnosis.