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Specific Phobias

Specific Phobia is the most prevalent anxiety disorder and epidemiological data show that phobia affects about 8.7% of the population at any given time. Specific phobias are twice as common in women as in men. They usually appear in childhood or adolescence and tend to persist into adulthood. A specific phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some common specific phobias include fear of closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and blood, needles, and injections. While adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.


Types of Specific Phobias

  • Fear of animals—this can include pets, wild animals and insects.

  • Fear of natural environment—this can include natural disasters as well as fear of being in unstable places within the environment

  • Fear of blood/injections/injury—this can include fear of seeing the blood of other people as well as fear of experiencing this stimuli oneself.

  • Fear of situations—this can include fear of traveling by different means as well as claustrophobia (fear of being in enclosed places, fear of driving).

  • Other fears—this can include fear of dying by illness, fear of incontinence and fear of other bodily sensations.




The primary treatment for specific phobias is behavioral therapy. Exposure therapy is a specific kind of behavioral therapy where a client is brought into contact with the feared object or situation. By gradually increasing the level of exposure to the source of fear, the severity of symptoms is decreased in a process called extinction. Another common treatment is called systematic desensitization. This treatment is very similar to traditional exposure therapy but also focuses on using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Medications are typically not used to treat specific phobia as behavioral therapy is so successful.

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