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What Is Phobia?

Phobias are the most common anxiety disorder. This article will give you a better understanding of what specific phobias are. So, continue reading the article and don’t go anywhere.

What Is A Phobia?

A phobia is an intense and debilitating fear of a specific situation, object, or creature. The most common phobias are fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of snakes, and fear of needles. You may know some phobias by their Latin names, such as arachnophobia, which refers to the fear of spiders, but this name is rarely used by psychologists, who instead refer to them as “specific phobia of spiders.”

Phobias cause high levels of distress and incapacity in those diagnosed, who often have to go to great lengths to avoid those things they fear. Fortunately, phobias can be treated. Some treatments can effectively eliminate the symptoms of fear in just a few hours of work.

Definition of Specific Phobia

A phobia is an intense fear of a particular situation or object (called “phobic stimulus”). Phobias can relate to almost anything, but many of them fall into one of four categories:

  • Animal phobias – fear of snakes, spiders, dogs, etc.
  • Environmental phobias – fear of heights, thunderstorms, the ocean, etc.
  • Situational fear: fear of specific situations such as flying or being in an enclosed space, fear of dying.
  • Blood, disease, and injury – fear of needles, medical procedures, blood, disease, etc. 

Many people fear some of these situations – like spiders, snakes, and emptiness. These things are, after all, a certain level of threat. But not all of these people meet the criteria for phobia.

Diagnosis of Phobia

To be diagnosed as a phobia, the fear the person feels must be considered excessive or unreasonable, given the actual level of danger.

Most people would experience some trepidation seeing a large spider running across their living room floor. Still, someone with a specific fear of spiders might experience such uncontrollable anxiety that they would be forced to leave the room. Then be so frightened by the experience that she would refuse to enter the room again without checking every square inch for any signs of the presence of spiders.

Effects of Phobia

A phobia also causes extreme distress or impairment. A person with a phobia may be constantly on edge and live in fear of the next encounter with the phobic stimulus. His fears can prevent him from going to certain places or disrupt his life considerably. For example, a person who develops a fear of heights may be forced to move if they live in a building. A person with a phobia of confined spaces may have to walk to work rather than drive or take public transportation.

Dr. Wendy M. O’Connor is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Los Angeles, California.

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