5 Emotional Impacts of Phobias

Learn about the psychological and emotional effects of your phobia.

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A specific phobia is, by nature, triggered by a specific object or situation. So unlike in generalized anxiety disorder, people with a specific phobia are not consumed by a pervasive worry and fear. Regardless though, a phobia can have a very real impact on a person's daily functioning and quality of life.

Here are 5 examples of the emotional effects some people experience as a result of their phobia.

Life-Limiting and Severe Anxiety

One of the main criteria for diagnosing a phobia is that it is life-limiting in nature. Depending on what your phobia is, you might find it a real struggle to run errands, go out with friends, or even make it to work every day. In other words, a specific phobia can significantly impair your education, your career, and your overall quality of life

Isolation

Limitations associated with phobias can make you experience social isolation. You may wonder why you are not like everybody else. This can affect your relationships with family and friends, which can contribute to you becoming reclusive and depressed. 

Embarrassing 

Phobias can create awkward and embarrassing situations. For example, how do you explain to your best friend that you can never visit her home because she owns a dog? How do you turn down a trip to the Bahamas with a new love because you can’t bring yourself to get on a plane?

Social phobia can be especially difficult to manage because the underlying fear is of humiliation. Having a phobic reaction can make you feel embarrassed, which often only reinforces the persistent fear.

Feeling out of Control

Perhaps one of the worst emotional components of a phobia is the out of control feeling.

You may understand that your phobia is irrational and/or excessive, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot get it under control. You are not alone if you spend time thinking about what your life would be like if you could simply live daily without the dread of coming into contact with that specific object or situation. 

Helplessness

Helplessness may appear when you realize that your phobia has affected several or even all aspects of your life, like your job, social life, and general happiness. You may feel that there is nothing you can do to heal. You may assume that you will always have your phobia. You may wish things were different, but feel that they never will be.

A Word From Verywell

The good news is that if your phobia is causing any of these distressing thoughts or feelings, be reassured that you can get better with proper treatment. Like any mental disorder, it is easy for a phobia to have an impact far beyond its basic symptoms. Treating the phobia will eventually help to reduce negative feelings like shame and helplessness.

That being said, while you are in treatment, you may find that some negative feelings remain. Be sure to tell your mental health professional. Further therapy, perhaps from a psychodynamic point of view, can help you to sort out your feelings and concerns.

While you are undergoing treatment, you may find too that self-help methods and relaxation techniques can help reduce your symptoms.

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing. 

Ollendick TH, Raishevich N, Davis III TE, Sirbu, Öst L-G. Specific phobia in youth: Phenomenology and psychological characteristics. Behav Ther. 2010 Mar;41(1):133-41.

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