Don’t let a phobia take control of your life – Get help

Remember Howard Hughes’s germ phobia? He was a billionaire, aviator, movie producer and business tycoon who spent most of his life trying to avoid germs. His phobia forced him into reclusiveness and in 1976 he died very much alone.

A phobia is actually a type of anxiety disorder. It is an irrational fear of something that is of little or actual danger. It can really interfere with and change the course of your life. The symptoms can vary widely depending on the person’s response. Fear of losing control, panic, a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, clammy hands and body, trembling, wanting to run away, white knuckling it, and the feeling that you’re going to die. Awful feelings that seem to be out of the person’s control.

Seeking an intervention from qualified professionals can really make an enormous difference. Behavior therapy is often used to condition a different response. Deep breathing exercises along with guided imagery is another very helpful path to take. There is also systemic desensitization, modeling behavior and learning to challenge irrational thoughts.

If you or someone you care about has a phobia, manifested by any of these symptoms, please don’t wait. Call a professional and get the help you or that person needs.

If you have any comments or thoughts about phobias, I’d love hearing from you, feel fee to email me at

Miriam Lacher is Manager of the Bayside Center for Behavioral Health at Sarasota Memorial.

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