Last Updated : 22 Jul 2011 08:05:52 AM IST
Shoba Pillai starts hyperventilating every time she hears the doorbell ring. The 27-year old, who works at a MNC in Chennai, would break into a sweat and suffer a panic attack for fear of opening the door. “While there is no scientific term for fear of doorbells or even mobile phones ringing, such phobias are exaggerated, irrational fears which can affect people,” says Puka Kanth Alfred, a counselling psychologist and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) therapist in the city. “Some people develop phobias after a traumatic experience—in this particular case, the person had an experience of being stalked, so she carries negative feelings associated with the event long after it passed,” Alfred points out.
Kumar mentions that current lifestyles, where people indulge in junk food and unhealthy diets, have seen the rise of cardiophobia or fear of heart attacks. “These people imagine they have cardiac problems when the hear a ambulance pass or while crossing a hospital,” he explains.
How severely do these affect their quality of life? Alfred says, some such phobias seriously interfere with the everyday, where people react by avoiding the object of one’s fear, if possible. “One of my clients, had a fear of loss of control of facial muscles, which would severely affect their social interaction. They would be conscious of their smile, and worried whether it appears awkward to others,” she explains. “On the other hand, if one were to suffer from a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), for instance in a lift, then they would avoid taking the lift, which is how people sometimes deal with phobias” she adds.
Funnily enough, cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT aims to treat just this. It systematically exposes the sufferer to the object of fear, as Dr U Gauthamadas, a well-known neuro psychiatrist in the city will tell you. “For instance, if it’s a fear of cockroaches, we stick pictures of cockroaches around areas the patient inhabits, so that he overcomes the fear gradually,” offers Kumar.
Common treatments include the use of behaviour therapy, where patients undergo a combination of counselling and lifestyle modification. Dr Gauthamadas says he sees cases of astraphobia (fear of lightning and thunder) which is seen during the monsoon season, especially October and November. Kumar tells me EFT is an effective therapy which is commonly used today. “EFT is used to systematically treat phobias where experts have identified 14 energy points on the body, which are then sequentially tapped to channelise energy and remove emotional blockages,” he explains.