Specific Phobia

Specific phobias (formerly simple phobia) are among the most common of all psychiatric disorders, affecting up to 10% of the population.1 Specific Phobia is characterized by the excessive fear of an object or a situation, where exposure causes an anxious response, such as a panic attack. Adults with phobias recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, but they are unable to control it. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations and, in severe cases, any mention or depiction of them.

Types of Specific Phobias

There are different types of specific phobias, based on the object or situation feared, including:

  • The most common type of specific phobias are animal phobias which include fear of dogs, snakes, insects, mice, etc.
  • Situational phobias involve a fear of specific situations, such as flying, riding in a car or on public transportation, driving, going over bridges or in tunnels, or of being in a closed-in place, like an elevator.
  • Natural environment phobias include the fear of storms, heights, or water.
  • Blood-injection-injury phobias involve a fear of being injured, of seeing blood or of invasive medical procedures, such as blood tests or injections
  • Other common phobias include a fear of falling down, a fear of loud sounds, and a fear of costumed characters, such as clowns.


An individual can exhibit multiple specific phobias at once and symptoms can vary to include:

  • ” Excessive or irrational fear of a specific object or situation.
  • ” Avoiding the object or situation, or enduring it with great distress.
  • ” Physical symptoms of anxiety or a panic attack such as a pounding heart, nausea or diarrhea, sweating, trembling or shaking, numbness or tingling, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, feeling like you are choking.
  • ” Anticipatory anxiety, which involves becoming nervous ahead of time about being in certain situations or coming into contact with the object of your phobia.


In order to properly diagnose an individual with a specific phobia, a physician must perform a physical and mental examination. Because anxiety accompanies so many medical conditions, it is extremely important for the doctor to uncover any medical problems or medications that might be masked by an anxiety attack. The patient should describe any occurrence of anxiety disorders or depression in the family and mention any other contributing factors, such as excessive caffeine use, recent life changes, or stressful events. It is very important to be honest with your doctor about all conditions, including excessive drinking, substance abuse, or other psychological or mood states that might contribute to, or result from, the anxiety disorder.


Not all phobias need treatment, but if a phobia affects your daily life, a number of therapies are available that can help you overcome your fears. Your doctor or a mental health provider may recommend medications or behavior therapy or both to treat phobias. The most common types of medications include Beta Blockers, which work to block the stimulating effects of adrenaline; Antidepressants which work to increase serotonin levels; and Sedatives to help people relax and calm anxiety.

Review Sources

  • NY Times – this link provided statistics on specific phobias
  • WebMD – this link provided information about types of specific phobias
  • Mayo Clinic – this link provided information about treatment of specific phobias

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