Ever freeze up and not entirely know why? Ever obsess about something you know you’ll rarely encounter?

Phobias (from the Greek word phobos, meaning “fear”) are irrational fears of certain things and situations. While anyone may get freaked out by something surprising or dangerous like a mouse or snake, true phobias are anxiety disorders that can be debilitating, requiring professional help to handle. In extreme cases, sufferers may be so incapacitated that they cannot lead a normal life at work or study, or enjoy healthy, functioning relationships. Phobias can cause both emotional and physical symptoms, from high blood pressure to panic attacks.

Even when the problem is not that serious, fears can leave you rattled and off-balanced. People suffering from phobias realize that their emotions are unreasonable, yet they seem unable to overcome them.

Some of the most common phobias are of enclosed places, heights, air traveling, insects, snakes, and needles/medical procedures. Major ones also include social phobias, like fear of speaking publicly in front of a group, of crowds, or unfamiliar social situations.

Though there may be a genetic connection, and children often pick up phobias from their parents, the primary cause of phobias is frightening experiences. Phobias may also be a manifestation of inner feelings, such as a sense of feeling trapped in a relationship or career causing claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces).

The most severe cases of phobia require clinical treatment. A psychologist may conduct cognitive behavioral therapy, retraining a patient’s body and mind to become accustomed to what is feared.

Some counsellors recommend their clients find hope and strength in Bible passages such as: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4); “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

Jesus Himself made a great promise: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27)