Having extreme fears, or phobias, can be life-stopping. Some phobias may seem foolish to others, but they are not foolish or funny to the person who is suffering.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is a fear of long words, wow, that’s a really long word to describe that fear — it’s almost scary to even try to pronounce it; by the way it’s “hippo-poto-monstro-sis-cupid-ali-o-phobia”. Why would someone have such a fear? Understanding the possible reason(s) might make others feel a bit more indulgent and could help ease someone’s phobia. No matter how ironic the description is, the fear is real to the person who is suffering.
Phobias can affect a person physically, mentally and emotionally. Symptoms like rapid heartbeats, nausea, sweating, anxiety, feeling terrified, crying, avoidance and embarrassment can suddenly take hold of an individual who is scared and triggered by his fear. No one is born with a phobia, it can be caused by an unpleasant incident, pain or loss. The child who sees their house on fire may easily develop a fear of fire (Pyrophobia). If a person has been injured in a crowd, they might develop Enochlophobia, and avoid possible crowded situations; this may be similar to Agoraphobia which is a fear of being trapped in a dangerous and uncontrollable situation. Agnosiophobia is a fear of not knowing what’s going to happen and can be paralyzing as the victim subconsciously wants to avoid an previous unpleasant occurrence.
The human mind reacts to everything its owner has lived through. The anxiety that fear causes is not something that will respond to logic, lecturing, and definitely not scolding. A phobia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to cope with certain situations, it is more than just a fear like screaming on a roller coaster. Anxiety caused by a phobia can often feel like impending doom and it is not easily controlled or can be forced to be ignored. People with phobias often know that their fear is irrational, but it is real to them.
If you are with a person experiencing a panic attack from a phobia, let them know they can talk with you about it and don’t be angry if they choose not to. Don’t try to badger them with “common sense” or tell them they have no reason to be so scared, don’t try to bully them into being “normal”. Don’t bring up their phobia just because you want to talk about it, that can actually trigger their anxiety; however it is okay to let them know you are there (in person or by phone) to talk anytime they need to. If that person suddenly gets irritable during a panic attack, be quick to forgive them. Find things to do as friends with the individual who suffers, but don’t try to push them into a triggering event.
Phobias and anxiety can take time to cure or even get control of, don’t expect that they will suddenly get over it. Often the best option for someone paralyzed by their fears is to talk with a professional therapist — be supportive of their efforts. Be aware that someone’s anxiety could have a negative effect on you and if it does a therapist or support group may be able to help you cope with your friend or loved one’s emotions. Anxiety is treatable and someone you care about is certainly worth the time. Be a friend.