Hala would start her day as any other working mother: wake up, feed and dress the kids, then take them to school before going to work. Except that she always takes at least three times as long as anybody else. She doesn’t use lifts and avoids using the subway or going through tunnels, always taking more time to go anywhere. Even the necessity of using a car leaves her perspiring heavily and in a state of severe anxiety by the time she arrives at work, where she has requested a place with an open window and an always-opened door.
Stress and tension is a factor
Hala has an extreme fear of enclosed areas, known as claustrophobia. But she is not alone. Many Egyptians suffer from this kind of phobia, which can vary in type and intensity. We always regard every individual in our society as a closed chest of secrets, each of us having our own unique and individual set of personal fears and psychological conflicts and problems springing from own upbringing and experiences.
Obvious to all is the fact that in our country, the ever-increasing level of stress and tension is a factor. A recent study published in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal by Dr Mohamed Ghanem and others, on a sample of 14,640 Egyptians, (ranging in age from 18 to 64 years, in five different regions: Alexandria, Qualubia, Fayoum, Giza and Ismailia,) revealed that 0.5 per cent suffered from agoraphobia, 1.35 per cent from special phobias and 0.23 per cent from social phobias.
Acknowledging the truth
"It is completely normal for anybody to have fears," says Dr Radwa Abdulazim, a psychiatry consultant and creative art therapist. ”We could be afraid of a thing like black cats for instance, or an idea like flying, or a particular first experience - as I often encounter in my practice - the first night of marriage. But a line of difference should be drawn between fear and phobia, as the latter is the extreme form of fear and should be treated if it reaches a crippling extent, and especially if the person is originally suffering from health problems that can be augmented by any phobic symptoms. These symptoms include extreme fear, sweating, loss of control, a feeling of cold, pain in the stomach, dizziness, or increase in heart beat.
No one is born with a fear for something in particular; the real clue begins with acknowledging the truth and knowing that the fear is habitual. So by changing the way we think and challenging our old habits, we can fight this and break the cycle.
Confront your fears
These are some useful hints and steps that can help you conquer your thoughts. First, try breathing slowly whenever you feel something is going to trigger your fear, calm yourself by taking slow and deep breaths and by controlling your breathing you can control how your body reacts to stressful situations. Secondly try to look at it from a bright perspective, anybody is entitled to feel afraid, but the real problem appears when you fail to have the right mechanism of reacting to this feeling by reminding oneself that the scenario one imagines is very unlikely to take place. Finally, confront your fears and go through the experience gradually till you prove to yourself you can conquer those thoughts.
Phobias must not dominate your life; take small steps to change your habits and remember that you are not born with those fears and that you can eventually get rid of them.