What are "The Phobias"?
In the anxiety literature, you read about them all the time...."the phobias"...
The big problem with using this terminology is that everyone interprets "the phobias" in a different way, and many professionals interpret it only as relating to panic and its associated symptomatology.
It is not accepted scientific practice to be imprecise.
It is very important to define terms as precisely as possible. So, when someone uses the phrase "the phobias", ask them just what they mean.
Are they talking about agoraphobia?
Or perhaps specific phobias, such as fear of snakes, claustrophobia, or emetophobia?
Or maybe they're also including social phobia (social anxiety disorder)... a completely separate anxiety problem that is the THIRD largest mental health care problem in the world.
That is precisely the problem... when someone says they treat "the phobias", who knows what they mean?
Even worse, do THEY know what they mean?
Each and every one of the anxiety problems mentioned above should be spelled out specifically. We have clearly defined words and explanations for each of these "phobias".
Each and every one of "the phobias" is different. Many times, they are vastly different. The only common denominator is that "the phobias" all cause anxiety.
Professionals... please be explicit about your intention if you are writing or speaking about any of the DSM-IV "phobias". It is not only more accurate to define terms properly, it prevents needless misunderstanding and related problems.
I can vouch for the fact that a person with agoraphobia, whose life is restricted because of the fear of panic attacks, does not appreciate being lumped together with someone who has a specific fear of spiders. Both of these are genuine anxiety problems, but the condition, level of treatment, and therapy involved are vastly different.
I can also guarantee you that the 7-8% of people with social phobia (more properly "social anxiety disorder"), do not care to be lumped into this category either. People with social phobia do not fear panic attacks or enclosed spaces or individual objects. They fear social interactions where they perceive they will be on display or judged.
To lump all of these anxiety problems together as "the phobias" is not only scientifically inaccurate, but it can create potential problems in regard to diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Lack of knowledge about the anxiety disorders underlies the use of this unfortunate terminology, but this is no excuse to continue using inaccurate diagnostic criteria.
It is time we put to rest this catch-all phrase "the phobias" and start being specific about which "phobia" we are talking about.