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:
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.
People with phobias cannot control their anxiety.
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:
Physical Effects of Anxiety
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You will be asked 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 1 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.
Your doctor may recommend medication to reduce panic and anxiety attacks. Medications may include:
There are no current guidelines to prevent phobias because the exact cause is unknown.
American Psychiatric Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada
Canadian Psychiatric Association
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Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at:
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Accessed April 18, 2018.
Phobias and irrational fears. Help Guide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/phobias-and-irrational-fears.htm. Updated March 2018. Accessed April 18, 2018.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115906/Social-anxiety-disorder . Updated March 16, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2018.
Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113844/Specific-phobia . Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed FApril 18, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 6/20/2013