A phobia is an intensely fearful response to a situation or object. Phobias can interfere with different aspects of your life. Most phobias develop in childhood, though some develop during adulthood.
There are many kinds of phobias, which can be grouped into these categories:
People with phobias don't have any control over their anxiety. Treatment includes medications and counseling.
The cause of phobias is unknown. It may be a combination of genetic factors, family environment, critical life stressors, and underlying temperament that interact to enhance or trigger cerebral fear networks.
Phobias are more common in women than in men. They also tend to run in families.
You may have an increased chance of developing a phobia if:
Symptoms occur when you are exposed to the object or situation that you fear. Your fear may become more intense if you can't easily get away from it.
Psychological symptoms may include:
Physical symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychological exam will be done.
There are no tests that can diagnose phobias. The diagnosis will be made based on your symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Therapy will be based on your individual needs. It may be done in combination with other treatment methods. Some therapy options include:
You may also benefit from joining a support group.
American Psychiatric Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada
Canadian Psychiatric Association
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Phobias. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.psychiatry.org/phobias. Accessed June 4, 2013.
Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/phobias. Accessed June 4, 2013.
Phobias and fears. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/phobias-and-fears.htm. Updated May 2013. Accessed June 4, 2013.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9. Updated July 1, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9. Updated March 13, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.