Phobia: What You Need to Know and More


What is a phobia?

A phobia can be defined as a type of anxiety disorder which causes varying levels of overwhelming fear of a certain object or situation. The person affected will go to great lengths just to avoid this object or situation completely. Most of the time, he knows that his fear is unreasonable and not life-threatening at all. However, he cannot control how he feels towards the specific object and will do everything to avoid it. When the time comes that the sufferer will have to face it, he will undergo a lot of terror and stress. This experience can cause intense psychological and physical reactions – some people hyperventilate, get shocked and some can even lose consciousness when faced with the thing they fear the most.


What are its causes?

There is no known cause of phobias. However, a lot of factors can trigger a person’s fear of a specific object. Most phobias develop during childhood. It’s also quite surprising but some phobias run in the families. They can also come from one’s culture or upbringing. Certain life events can also trigger a person’s fear. One unfortunate encounter with an object can make a person avoid all kinds of that object. For example, after getting chased by a mean-looking dog, a boy gets scared of every dog he encounters from that moment on.


The Different Kinds of Phobias

Phobias are classified into three categories:

  1. Specific phobia – Irrational fear of a specific object. Examples: Fear of heights, animals, clowns, airplanes.
  2. Social phobia – Excessive self-consciousness and fear of public humiliation. Examples: Public speaking, stage fright, being in the spotlight.
  3. Fear of Open Spaces (agoraphobia) – Fear of an actual situation. Examples: Using public transportation, being in a too much crowded place, being in open or enclosed spaces.


Specific Phobias

There are four general types of specific phobias:

  1. Animal – Most common specific phobias. Fear of animals most specially dogs, rats, snakes and insects.
  2. Natural environment – Fear of natural occurrences such as storms, heights, water and the dark.
  3. Situational – This phobia involves fear of specific situations like flying, driving, riding an elevator, riding in a car and bridges.
  4. Blood-Injection-Injury – Fear of blood, injections, wounds and medical procedures.

Girls standing apart from others in school --- Image by © Heide Benser/Corbis

When to Seek Treatment

            Having a certain type of phobia is perfectly normal. However, if it disrupts his daily routine and activities and affects how he functions, a person should seek psychological help immediately. Most people get better with the right therapy.