What Is Revolving Door Syndrome?

Understanding Relapse in a Phobia Sufferer

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In mental health, revolving door syndrome refers to the tendency of clients to get better for a while, and then end up relapsing. It most often applies to those with serious disorders, such as schizophrenia, but anyone with a mental health condition could potentially be at risk.

There are dozens of possible contributing factors, from the current focus on three sessions or less brief therapy to the tendency to treat with psychotropic medications rather than hospitalization.

For many clients, however, mental health disorders tend to be cyclical. This may be particularly true for those with anxiety disorders, including phobias.

Researchers are uncertain exactly what causes phobias. However, it is commonly believed that certain factors may increase the likelihood that a phobia will develop.

Phobia Cycles

Phobias are extremely personalized, varying dramatically from one sufferer to the next. Therefore, what someone else experiences may not be true for you. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that anxiety disorders ebb and flow. Some people find that their phobias worsen when they are under a great deal of general stress. Interestingly, some people experience the opposite. Their phobias worsen when life evens out and there are no other crises to draw their attention. In women, anxiety disorders may get worse during certain phases of the menstrual cycle.

Common Symptoms of Phobias

Phobias can be divided into three types: specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia.

Although the symptoms of each type will vary, there are some symptoms common to all phobias. These include:

  • Terror: A persistent and overwhelming fear of the object or situation.
  • Physical Symptoms: Dizziness, shaking, palpitations.
  • Obsessive Thoughts: Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear.
  • Desire to Flee: An intense instinct to leave the situation.
  • Anticipatory Anxiety: Persistent worrying about upcoming events that involve the phobic object or situation.

Fear of Getting Well

The fear of getting well may be at the heart of some cases of revolving door syndrome. If you have a long-lasting phobia, it may be all you know. An adrenaline rush is powerful, and some people actually enjoy its effects. Although a phobia does not feel good, you may be hooked on the cycle of adrenaline and its after-effects. You may also wonder what your life would be like without the fear.

To beat revolving door syndrome, you must make a firm commitment to wellness. Recognize that the path is difficult, and you may experience setbacks. Work with your therapist to develop a treatment plan that works for you, and never hesitate to discuss possible changes if you feel that treatment is no longer working. Recovery is never easy, but the ability to live without fear is well worth the trouble.

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