Specific Phobic Disorders

Specific phobic disorders involve persistent, unrealistic, intense anxiety about and fear of specific situations, circumstances, or objects.

The anxiety caused by a phobic disorder can interfere with daily living because the individual avoids certain activities and situations.

The diagnosis is usually obvious based on symptoms.

Treatment usually consists of exposure therapy.

Specific phobias are common anxiety disorders that affect about 8% of adults in a given 12-month period.

The most common specific phobias include:

  • Fear of animals (zoophobia);
  • Fear of heights (acrophobia); and
  • Fear of thunderstorms (astraphobia or brontophobia).

At least 5% of individuals are at least to some degree afraid of blood, injections, or injury.

Individuals who have a specific phobia often have 2 or more phobias.

Individuals who have a specific phobia avoid specific situations or objects that trigger their anxiety and fear, or they endure them with great distress, sometimes resulting in a panic attack.

However, they recognise that their anxiety is excessive and therefore are aware that they have a problem.

Some specific phobias cause little inconvenience. For example, a city dweller who is afraid of snakes may have no trouble avoiding them.

Other specific phobias greatly interfere with functioning. For example, a city dweller who fears elevators may encounter them frequently and thus be routinely faced with a difficult choice:

  • Avoid an important work situation;
  • Climb many stairs; or
  • Endure the elevator ride with great discomfort.

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