Counseling for Phobias and Fear in Chicago

By Dr. Tyler Fortman and Dr. John D. Moore

Searching for therapy, counseling and treatment information of phobias in Chicago? You are not alone. The numbers are somewhat scatted but we think somewhere around 19 million people in the United States have some type of phobia. It’s an issue that certainly comes up as part of anxiety therapy and counseling for many who visit our Chicago counseling offices.

This brief article will explore the topic of phobias in detail and offer 5 examples for the purpose of universalizing common fears. We’ll start off with some basic Q and A and then move about the business of providing examples – plus counseling/treatment options.

What Are Phobias?

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What Are Phobias?

In non-clinical speak, phobias (commonly referred to as specific phobias) are part of the larger family of anxiety disorders. When you have a phobia, you experience intense fear of a specific situation or object. We’re not talking about run of the mill fear here folks. For example, if you are walking down a dark city alley, you might be worried about your safety. That’s pretty common and to be expected.

Phobias, however, bring about feelings of terror. In fact, these feelings of fear are so strong that they can have a disabling effect, causing you to essentially “freeze” when in the presence of whatever is causing the phobic response. Some people have even reported they have depersonalized as part of their fear response.

Six key characteristics of a specific phobia:

  • Persistent
  • Unwanted
  • Irrational
  • Exaggerated response
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Intense distress

Phobia Examples:

As a way of demonstrating what phobias are, we thought it might be helpful to provide some examples. Bear in mind that a person can develop a phobia for just about anything. Our 5 examples speak to some of the more common ones. We’ve included comments from clients to help drive home wider points.

How many of the hallmark characteristics of phobias listed above can you identify?

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1. Thunder and Lightning (Brontophobia)

If you experience intense fear whenever a thunderstorm approaches, you may have Brontophobia. This is a 25 cent term used to describe an individual who is extremely afraid of thunder and lightning. Some people even develop a phobic response when they see dark clouds because they have conditioned themselves to equate the sight of an anvil cloud head to danger.

“Whenever I hear thunder or see lightening, I start to freeze. If I am at home, I run into the bathroom and shut the door. My bathroom doesn’t have any windows.

I usually put on a pair of headphones and listen to music until the storm passes. Storms scare the crap out of me!”

-Jake (34)

2. Fear of Flying (Aerophobia)

If you are afraid flying and experience intense fears at the thought of boarding an aircraft, you may have Aerophobia. This is an extremely common phobia and can develop in people who are well traveled.

Development of this phobia is often connected to a previous “bad” experience when flying. Be sure to read this article on “Afraid to Fly: OCD at 31,000 Feet!” It’s about a real life experience containing aerophobic elements that are contextualized through two anxiety disorders (aerophobia and OCD).

“As the plane gathered speed down the runway, my heart started to pound out of my chest. I started to panic and freak out.

I couldn’t even look out the window because I was so terrified. The man sitting next to me probably thought I was a nut.”

-Beth (43)

3. Fear of Writing in Front of Others (Scriptophobia)

A fear of writing in front of others is very similar in concept to social anxiety disorder. The difference here is that those who are afraid to write in a public setting specifically fear being judged for how and what they write. This is called scriptophobia. More people have scriptophobia than you might think, including folks who are involved with teaching and training others.

“I know this is the silliest thing in the world but I am terrified to let other people see me write. I have always had this fear – ever since I was a kid. Part of me thinks people will think of me as stupid. I know I’m not but that’s just how I feel.

I go out of my way to avoid being put in situations where I might be asked to write something. You show me a chalkboard and I’ll show you how fast I can run.”

-Tim (29)

4. Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia)

If the thought of giving a presentation or speech in front of a group of people scares you bigtime, you may have Glossophobia. The term itself comes to us from the Greek (glossa=tounge). This is a very common phobia and is largely connected to intense fears of being judged.

“Whenever I think of having to make a presentation at work, I start to freeze up.

I’m afraid that when I get up in front of my co-workers, I won’t be able to say anything and I’ll look like a fool!”

-Kristi (38)

5. Fear of Using a Public Restroom (Paruresis)

If you are afraid of public restrooms and avoid them at all costs, you may have paruresis. Some people call this a “toilette phobia”.

This particular phobia is usually infused with fears of touching something contaminated (which relates to OCD) and/or fears of being heard by others while sitting on the toilette.

Men with this phobia are unable to urinate at the urinal because they “freeze up” while trying to pee (sorry to be graphic but it is what it is).

“I hate using any type of public restroom. I just don’t want people hearing me while I sit down on the commode.

Just the thought of emerging from a stall while someone else sees me makes me sick.

And I am not about to put my behind on a germ filled, filthy toilette. Gross!”

-Dale (52)

Counseling for Phobias and Fears

Chicago Therapists Anxiety, Addictions and Career 2nd Story Counseling Chicago

Counseling and Therapy for Phobias in Chicago

The decision to start counseling for a phobia is a smart one. There are a number of proven treatment approaches that can help you work through the intense feelings of fear that you may be experiencing.

Generally speaking, our counselors use the following approaches with clients. FYI: Many of these are combined as a way of arriving at the best possible outcome:

Our approach to wellness is strength based. This means we meet clients where they are at in life and help people to use already existing abilities to create positive change.  

To learn more about the anxiety therapy and counseling offered by our Chicago therapists, please visit our anxiety counseling page. You’ll learn all about the “anxiety wave” and how pretending

To make an appointment, call us at 773.528.1777 or send us a confidential email using the contact form on the menu bar.

Thanks for visiting 2nd Story Counseling in Chicago!