Specific Phobias

Specific Phobias are anxiety disorders that cause you to experience fear a specific stimulus (object, location, idea, event and/or person). The fear may be based on a previous experience or it may be irrational with no basis. If you have this condition, you avoid certain objects, situations or activities for fear of what is going to happen. You do not have to see or participate in the feared activity; rather just the mere thought of it can cause fear and a panic attack. It is important that you find a qualified and experienced therapist to help you overcome your phobia.

The American Psychiatric Association defines a phobia as “an excessive and irrational fear of a situation or an object.” This fear causes a strong aversion to an object, activity and/or situation, when in actuality it poses no real danger. Phobias are characterized by excessive fear and anxiety that interfere with your normal daily functioning.

When you think about the feared object or activity it causes these reactions:

  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Types of Specific Phobias:

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, approximately 10% of all the reported cases of phobias become lifelong phobias. Phobias are consists of a fear of a specific object or circumstance such as: fear of animals, heights, needles, closed spaces, injury, water, storms and/or death. If you have a specific phobia, you only feel the symptoms when you are in thinking or experiencing that specific object or situation.

The Four Basic Types of Specific Phobias:

  • Animal Phobias: Animal phobias are characterized by afear of dogs, cats, insects, rodents, birds,  reptiles and/or other animal. If you have a severe animal phobia, you fear may include artificial or stuffed animals (like rubber snakes).
  • Natural Environment Phobias: Natural environment phobias are characterized by an unexplained and/or irrational fear of storms, heights, water and/or darkness. You have a specific natural environment phobia when you are afraid to walk up the stairs due to a fear of height or go swimming due to a fear of water.
  • Situational Phobias: Situational phobias are characterizedby a fear of closed spaces such as elevators, flying in an airplane, driving a car and/or walking on a bridge.
  • Medical/Injury-Related Phobias: A medical/injury-related phobia is characterized by  a fear of getting an injury or seeing blood. If you have a medical/injury-related phobia, you are terrified to  give blood. In addition, if you have this specific phobia you are more prone to have a severe panic reaction if you have to give blood for a blood test. You may also experience extreme fear when you see needles and/or medical equipment.

Common Types of Specific Phobias:

  • Aichmophobia: Fear of needles or sharp pointed objects
  • Hydrophobia: Fear of water
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of enclosed spaces such as an elevator
  • Agoraphobia: Fear of wide open spaces
  • Acrophobia: Fear of heights
  • Entomophobia: Fear of insects
  • Gerontophobia: Fear of old people

These are just a few of the many phobias that exist. Even if you suffer from specific phobias and avoid the situations or objects that you are afraid of, your anxiety can cause real panic symptoms when you think about your fears. When your phobia becomes so severe that it interferes with your daily life, treatment is necessary.

Who is Can Develop a Specific Phobia?

Specific Phobias

Specific phobias can range from hundreds of different things.

Phobias can affect anyone at any point in their lives. Thousands of cases of people suffering from phobias go unreported as well. A phobia can begin in childhood, and if not treated, it can firmly take root in a person’s personality by the time adulthood is reached. One of the most common phobias a child can have is fear of the dark or night terrors. A combined approach by a mental health specialist and parents is required to treat the phobia if it is strong enough to continually disturb a child’s sleep.

How Are Specific Phobias Caused?

Specific phobias appear to be caused by a combination of social, developmental, environmental and biological factors combined with a genetic predisposition. Specific phobias can also arise as a result of direct observation. For example: A mother has a strong fear of insects. She unintentionally transfers her fear to her child by reacting strongly in the presence of insects. In addition, approximately 75% of people who have been diagnosed with specific phobias often have a relative who suffers from a similar phobia.

How Can Phobias Be Treated?

Phobias often do not require medication for treatment. Unless a phobia is so severe that it interferes with your daily life. You can be treated for phobias without medication.

The Following Techniques Can Aid In The Treatment Process:

  • Self-Treatment: Self-treatment can be applied only if a mild form of a specific phobia exists. In order for self-treatment to be effective, you must slowly expose yourself to the feared object. This typically begins with images and videos then gradually progresses until you are comfortable being in the presence of the feared object. Self-treatment consists of relaxation and breathing techniques in order to avoid panic attacks.
  • Professional Treatment: If your specific phobia is causing a disruption in your daily life – it is important that you seek professional treatment for a quailed mental health professional.

Treatment Options May Include:

  • Systemic desensitization
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications such as beta blockers, antidepressants and sedatives
  • Family therapy and support


Medline Plus. (2012). Phobias. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/phobias.html

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders   (4th ed.). Washington, DC.

Mayo Clinic. (2012). Phobia. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/phobias/DS00272/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all


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