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:
—Fear of being trapped in places or situations where escape could be difficult or impossible.
—Fear of social situations and being judged or evaluated by others.
Specific phobia—Fear of a specific object or a situation.
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.
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:
Exposure therapy—Confront your fear in a planned and controlled way with a therapist. It may begin with thinking about the fear and slowly progress to being exposed to it. You may also learn relaxation techniques. These help to reduce panic and anxiety.
—Work with your therapist to learn strategies to cope with your fear. You learn to change your beliefs and thoughts surrounding the fear and how it affects your life.
Overview of anxiety disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/overview-of-anxiety-disorders. Updated May 2014. Accessed April 18, 2018.
Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/phobias. 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.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 6/20/2013
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