5 Emotional Impacts of Phobias

Learn About the Psychological and Emotional Effects of Phobias

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A phobia is, by nature, tied to a specific object or situation. Unlike more broad-based mental disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, phobia sufferers are not constantly consumed by worry and fear. Nonetheless, a phobia can have a very real impact on your quality of life. Here is what you may not know about the effects of phobias.

5 Emotional Impacts of Phobias

  • Life-Limiting - 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.
  • Isolation - Limitations associated with phobias can make you feel isolated. You may wonder why you are not like everybody else. You may have trouble keeping friends. You may become reclusive and depressed.
  • Embarrassing - Phobias can cause awkward and embarrassing situations. 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 feel humiliating, reinforcing the fear and making the phobia more difficult to manage.
  • Feeling out of Control - Perhaps one of the worst emotional components of a phobia is the out of control feeling. You probably understand that your phobia is irrational, but no matter how hard you try you can’t get it under control. You wonder what it would be like to simply live your life without worrying that you may come into contact with that which you dread.
  • Helplessness may appear when you realize that your phobia is out of control. 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.

Treatment for Phobias

If your phobia is causing any of these thoughts or feelings, it is important to seek 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 the negative feelings of shame and helplessness.

While you are in treatment, you may find that some negative feelings remain. 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 that self-help methods and relaxation techniques can help to reduce your symptoms.

More About Phobias


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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