Have you been scared lately? If your fears return and restrict your daily life, it could be a phobia, a form of anxiety disorder. The main symptom of a phobia is an intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, objects, animals or people. Usually this fear is irrational, and often there is no specific previous experience that could have triggered the phobia. Phobics try the utmost to avoid fear-prone situations – often to such an extent that their fear begins to interfere with daily life and increasingly dominates their thinking.

A former patient of mine would feel uncomfortable in normal social situations such as parties or business meetings and tried to avoid them if possible. Eating and drinking in public was also a problem for him and led to great internal stresses. This special form of phobia is called ‘social phobia’, as it relates to other people or social situations. Performance anxiety (the fear of giving speeches or performing on a stage), is something that affects many people, and is also a form of social phobia.

One of the difficulties in treating phobias is that rational explanations and efforts of relatives and friends almost never help, and sometimes even increase the internal pressure. Also, ‘exposure therapy’, which is a popular theme for TV shows on the topic, showed only limited long-term success for most people. Success, however, can be achieved with modern psychotherapeutic approaches, like hypnotherapy and solution-oriented counseling. In severe cases of phobia, medication can help the patient get started in therapy and counseling. Going forward, continuous work on the problem is crucial to avoid falling back into the old patterns of fear.

Live the happy life you planned! Richard L. Fellner, a psychotherapist trained in Vienna, Austria, is head of the Pattaya Counseling Center in Thepprasit Soi 6 (Khopai) and offers consultations in English and German languages (after making appointments at 0854 370 470).