7 Important Criteria to Understand Specific Phobia
As children, your feelings are transparent when fear is present: Hysterical sobbing, screaming for help, and getting away from the object or person are typically expressed.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.." - H.P. Lovecraft
Growing up, you learn that fear is a normal feeling and that reacting to fear is normal; you either feel uncomfortable or stressed, but you express it subtly and maturely.
How can we tell if someone is naturally responding to fear or has a phobia? Here are seven critical diagnostic criteria to help you understand Specific Phobia:
1. Having Extreme Fear or Anxiety About An Object or Situation
While fear and anxiety are normal responses, there is a limit where both become unhealthy responses.
If an object or situation triggers severe reactions like panic attacks and a heightened feeling of stress, it signifies marked fear or anxiety. When dealing with phobias, fear, or anxiety differ depending on the distance of the situation or object.
2. The Thing or Event Always Provokes Intense Fear or Anxiety
Having multiple specific phobias is common. If you have three or more things or events that extremely terrify you, you're part of the 75% group studied to be dealing with phobias.
To be diagnosed with specific phobia, the object or event that you are afraid of must always incite fear or anxiety.
There are different kinds of fears and phobias in children and adults. Objects or events also have varying effects of phobias on a person.
3. Avoiding the Object or Event is a Must
When dealing with phobias, you might think it's better to live your life, avoiding what you're afraid of.
For example, you arrive at the mall to buy a book located on the fourth floor. As you walk inside, your palms get sweaty, and your heart started to race because you're scared to use the escalator or the elevator. To avoid the object you're afraid of, you thought of the staircase and used it.
Practicing active avoidance is usually done rather than experience the effects of phobias on a person. Active avoidance means you intentionally act in specific ways to prevent or minimize contact with the object or situation you fear.
4. The Fear Felt Isn't Proportionate to the Actual Danger the Object or Event Poses
Extreme reactions manifest if you have a specific phobia towards a thing or an event.
Most individuals with different kinds of fears and phobias admit that their anxiety is not parallel with the real danger the thing or situation implies.
The mental health professional assessing you is the only one who can decipher if this criterion is valid. It's essential to never self-diagnose because clinicians base their assessment on this criterion in a sociocultural context.
5. For More Than 6 Months, The Thing or Situation Consistently Triggers Fear
When dealing with phobias, a timeline must be present for children and adults.
In the DSM-V, mental health professionals consider this criterion as vital. Clinicians have studied that there are rational fears common to the population. The timeline can help measure if such fear is just sporadic or persistent.
6. Having Negative Feelings That Cause Physical, Social, or Psychological Distress
Active avoidance is an option you might take, but at some point, you will have no choice but to interact with what you fear. Some stores don't have stairs; tunnels may not have bridges above it; lights can die down in rooms, and you then experience the dark.
In life, there will be setbacks, surprises, and confrontations. It's natural to get scared or anxious about something. But, if it impairs your physical, social, and psychological functioning, these are effects of phobias on a person.
7. The Disturbance You're Feeling Isn't Attributed to Other Mental Disorders
While it is common for a specific phobia to co-exist with other mental disorders, in dealing with phobias, the distress you're feeling shouldn't be a result of other mental disorders.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder are mental illnesses that might show similar reactions to events or objects.
Related Article: What Should You Know About OCD?
Understanding symptoms is a step to attaining awareness of your current mental health. With caution, you mustn't self-diagnose. Information exists to help you become aware; Clinicians are there to help you assess and diagnose.