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Phobias: The monster in our head

As kids we all must have experienced being scared of the “monster under our bed” compelling us to fall off to sleep before the lights went out. In fact parents might have even tried to induce the fear of ghosts/monsters to get children to listen to them. So be it Frankenstein or the Giant who attacked Jack, we tend to expose children to fear or stress inducing situations from a very young age.

When they grow up and step into adolescence these monsters change their shape. The phobias become related to specific object or situation. Many times you might come across not only adolescents but even grownups shrieking at the sight of a stray dog thinking that the dog might bite/attack them. Phobia of animals and insects such as snakes, lizards etc. are very common. Phobia may also be related to medical procedures especially fear of needles. Refusing to go to the dentist or taking a vaccine and the entire chaos surrounding getting the procedure done is not an unfamiliar situation.

On the other hand while in an elevator or a crowded room, some individuals start feeling claustrophobic which is the fear of closed spaces or Agoraphobia. Teenagers suffering from agoraphobia often become extremely anxious owing to the fear that there is no escape. They might experience breathlessness, sweating, palpitations and dizziness. The intensity of agoraphobia can even escalate to the point where one isolates one self and refrains from going out of the house – a condition named as the Housebound syndrome.

  Moving on from the housebounds to the thrill seekers. Have you ever seen bungee jumpers or cliff divers? These adventure sports involve challenging heights. However, when we talk about fears some teenagers suffer from fear of heights. One might experience dizziness looking down from a height and might fear that they might fall.

 So far what we can understand is that the nature of Phobias is not just the fear associated with an object/situation that leads to experience of anxiety but also an apprehension of facing the feared object leading to escalation of anxiety followed by avoidance of the object/situation. Thus, most people suffering from phobias might have a tendency to isolate themselves thinking about the consequence of coming face to face with their fears.  

You must be wondering is there a remedy? How can we help teenagers deal with their phobias?

Since phobias are characterized by uncontrollable fear, letting teenagers articulate their fears can help us understand how to proceed with dealing with the fears. Many psycho-therapeutic interventions are focused on the process of desensitizing the feared object/situation. The feared situation/object is approached in a step by step manner until the anxiety dies down. As our mind and body are interrelated many times excessive worries can give rise to bodily changes such as palpitation, increased heartbeat, sweating, freezing, dizziness etc. In such scenarios practicing relaxation, guided imagery/thinking about a safe space and simple things like deep breathing can help reduce anxiety.

So the only resort seems to be getting rid of the “monster in our head” rather than the “monster under our bed”.

If you or someone you know is going through a similar experience, please feel free to
Get in touch.