Specific Phobias

Specific phobias |Symptoms |Causes |Treatment

specific phobias

Sometimes you feel a bit of fear of facing or going in front of a person, or there may be a fear in you that hides you from going in a specific event, or you may have developed fear related to an object that has no actual danger to you! Sometimes you may be aware that your fear is irrational, unreasonable but you still are unable to resist or overcome such fears. These fears lead you to some kinds of anxiety disorders known as “Specific Phobias”. 

 If you are going through such phases, no need to be a prisoner of your fears, just learn about the condition, its causes, and how you can treat such a condition.

Specific Phobia

“Specific phobia is an overwhelming, intense, irrational, and unreasonable fear of a specific object, person, or situation, or event that poses little or no actual danger.”

Adults with these phobias usually recognize that there is no reason behind their fears, despite it, the thought of facing the feared objects or event causes severe anxiety symptoms in them.

Types or Examples of Specific Phobias

Specific phobias have different types based on the object or situation a person is afraid of, such as:

  • Situational Phobias: involve the fear of specific situations, like riding a car, using public transport, and flying, going over bridges, being in an enclosed place as in an elevator, going to school, or going through a tunnel.
  • Animal phobias: the most common specific phobias involve the fear of dogs, insects, snakes, or mice.
  • Blood injection injury phobias: involve the fear of an injury, fear of seeing blood, or fear of blood tests or injections.
  • Natural environment phobias: involves the fear of storms, water, or height.
  • Other phobias: involves a fear of loud noises, choking, a fear of falling, and a fear of costumed characters, like clowns.

Most Common Specific Phobias

The most common phobias found in a 1998 survey, published in the British Journal ofPsychiatry are as follows:

  • Aerophobia- fear of flying
  • Arachnophobia– fear of spiders
  • Acrophobia– fear of heights
  • Astraphobia- fear of thunder and lightening
  • Claustrophobia– fear of crowded spaces
  • Auto phobia– fear of being alone
  • Homophobia- fear of blood
  • Hydrophobia- fear of water
  • Zoophobia- fear of animals
  • Ophidiophobia– fear of snakes


Symptoms of Specific Phobias

The symptoms of specific phobias are given below:

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Intense or irrational feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety when exposed to or thinking of a specific object or situation.
  • Awareness of the irrelevance of your fear, but powerless to overcome such fears
  • Fear that you will lose control in a specific situation
  • Feeling of an immediate need to escape the place, event, or situation

Physical symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breathing
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling

Specific Phobias Causes

The actual causes of specific phobias are not known, but in most cases, specific phobias are associated with a learned reaction or a traumatic experience.

  • Negative experience: if you have a threatening or frightening experience with an animal attack or being bitten by an animal, you can develop a specific phobia. If you witnessed a traumatic event in your life in which someone else experienced intense fear or harm, then this can also cause a specific phobia.
  • Genetics and environment: You can learn fears from others. For an instance, if parents react with anxiety and fear to a specific object or situation, then the child is most likely to respond to such objects with fear and anxiety.
  • Brain function: changes in the functioning of your brain can also develop specific phobias in you.

Risk Factors

Following factors may contribute to increasing your risk of developing a specific phobia:

  • Age: specific phobias can also develop in childhood in ages between 7 to 10, but can occur in life later.
  • Relatives: overprotectiveness of your parents can also increase the risk of specific phobias. If your family member has some kind of specific phobia or anxiety, then you are more likely to have the risk of developing it.
  • Temperament: your temperament is also a crucial factor in increasing the risk of specific phobias, such as if you are more inhibited, more sensitive, or more negative than the norm, you are likely to develop a specific phobia.
  • Environment: physical or sexual abuse, traumatic encounters are some environmental factors that can increase the risk of developing specific phobias in you.

Treatment of Specific Phobias

It is more important to focus on how to treat the avoidance behavior than understanding the causes of specific phobias. The goal of treating specific phobias is to improve the quality of life so that you may no longer remain limited by your phobias.

Treatment that is used to treat specific phobias is as follows:



You can manage your specific phobias by taking the help of your mental health professional. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are immensely effective in treating specific phobias.

  • Exposure therapy:this therapy aim at changing your reaction to the situation or object that you fear. In this therapy, you are gradually exposed to the sources of your specific phobias, and the thoughts, feelings, and sensations related to such sources, help you to learn and manage your fear and anxiety.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT):This therapy is a system of treatment that involves the focus on thinking and its impacts on feelings and behavior. CBT focuses on the role of dysfunctional beliefs and their influence on behavioral and emotional consequences and changing such beliefs to change the response to the stimulus that causes specific phobias in you.


Generally, psychotherapy is the cornerstone of treating specific phobias. Sometimes medications are used to reduce the symptoms of panic and anxiety you experience on thinking about the objects or situations you fear.

  • Beta-blockers- beta-blockers-blocks the provoking effects of adrenaline, like high blood pressure, racing heart, trembling voice, and limbs, increased heart rate caused by anxiety.
  • Sedatives- benzodiazepines-are medications that reduce the amount of anxiety you feel and help you relax. Use sedatives with cautions as they can be addictive, and you should avoid sedatives if you have a history of alcohol or drug obsession.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Seek the help of your healthcare professional and ask him to suggest lifestyle changes and other strategies that can help you to manage anxiety associated with specific phobias. Such as,

  • Relaxation techniques- like yoga, deep breathing may help you to fight your stress and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness strategies– these can help in learning how you can tolerate anxiety, and how you can reduce avoidance behavior.
  • Exercise and physical activity– can help you to manage anxiety linked with specific phobias.


Can you prevent specific phobias?

Many types of specific phobias are difficult to prevent or cannot be prevented. However, in case of a traumatic experience, like an animal attack, early intervention and treatment may help you in preventing you from developing any severe anxiety disorder.

Overcoming Specific Phobias

You can cope with specific phobias and overcome them with the help of professional treatment, and you can also learn how to manage your specific phobias effectively. Following are some steps you can take on your own that may help you in coping with specific phobias:

  • Don’t avoid feared situations. Instead of avoiding the situations, try your hard to stay near the situations you fear about time and again. Take the help of your family, friends, and therapist, as they can help you to work on this.
  • Take good care of yourself. Take enough rest, eat healthy food, and be physically active in your daily routine life. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, because caffeine can make anxiety adverse. And as things get from better to best, don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

Are Specific Phobias Common?

Phobias are a sort of anxiety disorder and such disorders are very common. In America, an estimated 6.3 million adults are affected by specific phobias at some time in their lives.

Phobias can occur in people of all ages. In children, specific phobias are common and usually vanish over time. In adults, specific phobias start suddenly and last longer than childhood phobias. About 20% of specific phobias in adults go away without any treatment.

Written By :Sonia Saba


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