Specific Phobia

What is Specific Phobia?

A person with a specific phobia (SP) experiences intense anxiety when they are exposed to a specific-feared situation or object, which either leads them to avoid the situation/object or face the situation with intense distress.

What are the symptoms?

  • The experience of intense fear when exposed to (or anticipation of) a specific object or situation
  • The distress present when exposed to the feared situation/object can sometimes take the form of a panic attack (a discrete period of intense and sudden fear, apprehension or terror, with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, blushing, trembling, sweating and faintness)
  • The person with a SP recognises that their fear is unreasonable or excessive
  • People with an SP either experience considerable distress about having the phobia and/or they avoid the feared object/situation. If the feared situation cannot be avoided, this can significantly interfere with their normal routine, including work, academic study, relationships, and/or social activities
  • There are five major SP category types, these being:
    • Animal (e.g. birds)
    • Natural environment (e.g. heights, storms)
    • Blood-injection-injury (e.g. receiving an injection)
    • Situation (e.g. elevators, enclosed spaces, flying)
    • Other (e.g. fear of vomiting or getting ill)
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Who gets a Specific Phobia?

  • Different types of phobias tend to develop at different life stages; for example a fear of animals, blood and water tends to develop in early childhood, whereas a fear of heights tends to develop in adolescence
  • Factors contributing to the development of a specific phobia may include childhood fears that are not resolved, parental modelling or exposure to a stressful or traumatic situation such as a natural disaster or bites by a vicious animal
Page last updated 22-Dec-2009