Internet Mental Health

SPECIFIC PHOBIA






Internet Mental Health Quality of Life Scale (Client Version)

Internet Mental Health Quality of Life Scale (Therapist Version)

Big 5 Factors Of Mental Illness And Code For This Disorder
(The "6th Big Factor" of Mental Health, "Physical Health", Is Coded Normal or Green)

  • Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation.

  • Lasted for at least 6 months.

  • Specific phobic objects or situations are actively avoided or endured with intense anxiety or fear.

  • Specific phobia causes significant impairment or distress.

  • Not due to a medical or substance use disorder.

Prediction

    Majority of cases develop before age 10. If childhood phobias persist into adulthood, only 20% recover. Although most specific phobias develop in childhood and adolescence, specific phobia can develop at any age, often as the result of a traumatic experience (e.g., driving phobia after a car accident).

Problems

Occupational-Economic Problems:

  • May interfere with occupation, depending on the type of phobia (e.g., flying phobia, claustrophobia)

Negative Emotions (Negative Emotion):

  • Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood). Note: In children, the fear or anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.

  • The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.

  • The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.

  • The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the sociocultural context.

  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Medical:

  • In Blood-Injection-Injury Type Specific Phobia there may be: fainting, fearful avoidance of necessary dental/medical care. Specific Phobia of Choking may prevent swallowing of pills and detrimentally restrict diet to food that is easy to swallow.

Fear, Generalized Anxiety, Phobia, Panic, Obsession, and Compulsion

Fearful avoidance is part of our instinctual "flight" response to adversity.

Our ancestors learned to fear dangerous things (e.g., snakes), and this harm avoidance saved their lives.

However, fear can spiral out of control. For example, an individual can develop a phobia to snakes in which the fear becomes excessive. The individual may then panic if exposed to snakes. This phobia can develop into an obsession in which the individual spends much of the time thinking about snakes, and how to avoid them. The obsession can develop into a compulsion in which the individual spends much of the time doing superstitious, compulsive, ritual behaviors aimed at avoiding snakes.

There are stages in the escalation of fear:

  • Normal Fear:
    Fear is normal if it is in proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation, and this fear doesn't cause significant distress or disability.

  • Generalized Anxiety:
    Fear can become excessive, and generalized with excessive anxiety and worry about a number of objects or situations. This anxiety is often associated with avoidance of the feared objects or situations and irritability.

  • Phobia:
    Fear can become excessive, and specifically attached to specific objects or situations (e.g., fear of flying). This phobic fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by these feared objects or situations, and the individual desperately tries to avoid whatever triggers the phobia. This phobic fear causes significant distress or disability. The average individual with specific phobia fears 3 or more situations.

  • Panic:
    Phobic individuals can develop a full-blown panic attack if exposed to whatever triggers their phobia.

  • Obsession:
    If the individual develops persistent, unwanted thoughts about the phobia; this is defined as an obsession. An obsession is an unwanted, recurrent, persistent, fear-provoking intrusive thought. Individuals with specific phobia usually don't develop obsessions.

  • Compulsion:
    A compulsion is a ritual an individual develops to combat an obsession. Thus compulsions are fear-relieving avoidance behaviors. The individual feels driven to perform these compulsions. Individuals with specific phobia usually don't develop compulsions.

Back to top


Click Here For Free Diagnosis

Limitations of Self-Diagnosis

Self-diagnosis of this disorder is often inaccurate. Accurate diagnosis of this disorder requires assessment by a qualified practitioner trained in psychiatric diagnosis and evidence-based treatment.

However, if no such professional is available, our free computerized diagnosis is usually accurate when completed by an informant who knows the patient well. Computerized diagnosis is less accurate when done by patients (because they often lack insight).

Example Of Our Computer Generated Diagnostic Assessment

Specific Phobia 300.29

This diagnosis is based on the following findings:
  • Persistent, unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation (still present)
  • Exposure to the feared situation provoked an immediate anxiety response
  • Recognized that this fear was excessive or unreasonable
  • Feared situation was avoided, or endured with intense anxiety
  • This unreasonable fear caused clinically significant disability or distress (still present)
  • This specific phobia occurred when patient was age 18 or older
  • This fear of a specific object or situation was not due to another mental disorder

TREATMENT GOALS:

  • Goal: prevent persistent, unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation.
    If this problem persists:

  • Goal: prevent avoidance of the feared situation (or enduring it with intense anxiety).
    If this problem persists:


Back to top


Specific (Isolated) Phobias F40.2 - ICD10 Description, World Health Organization

Phobias restricted to highly specific situations such as proximity to particular animals, heights, thunder, darkness, flying, closed spaces, urinating or defecating in public toilets, eating certain foods, dentistry, or the sight of blood or injury. Though the triggering situation is discrete, contact with it can evoke panic as in agoraphobia or social phobia.
Specific Phobia - Diagnostic Criteria, American Psychiatric Association

An individual diagnosed with specific phobia needs to meet all of the following criteria:

  • Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood). Note: In children, the fear or anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.

  • The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.

  • The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.

  • The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation and to the sociocultural context.

  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  • The disturbance if not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, including fear, anxiety and avoidance of situations associated with panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating symptoms (as in agoraphobia); objects or situations related to obsessions (as in obsessive-compulsive disorder); reminders of traumatic events (as in posttraumatic stress disorder); separation from home or attachment figures (as in separation anxiety disorder); or social situations (as in social anxiety disorder).

Back to top


Diagnostic Features

Specific Phobia is characterized by abnormal fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood). This fear lasts for at least 6 months and causes significant distress or disability. Specific Phobia is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, like Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Separation Anxiety Disorder.

Complications

Specific Phobia can cause impairments in occupational and social functioning (e.g., fear of falling causes refusal to use public transportation; hence limits work and visiting friends). Individuals with this disorder are up to 60% more likely to make a suicide attempt.

Comorbidity

50%-80% have another Anxiety Disorder, Mood Disorder, and/or Substance-Related Disorder.

Associated Laboratory Findings

No laboratory test has been found to be diagnostic of this disorder.

Prevalence

For Specific Phobia the US 12-month community prevalence rate is 7%-9% (5% in children and 16% in 13- to 17-year-olds; 3%-5% in adults). The female to male ratio is 2:1.

Course

Most Specific Phobias develop in childhood and adolescence, but they can develop at any age.

Outcome

Those Specific Phobias that develop in childhood and adolescence are likely to wax and wane during that period. However, those Specific Phobia that do persist into adulthood are unlikely to recover.

Precipitants

Specific Phobias often develop as the result of a traumatic experience. However, many individuals are unable to remember the specific reason for the onset of their Specific Phobia.

Familial Pattern

There is some genetic susceptibility to Specific Phobia.

Effective Therapies

Most Specific Phobias respond robustly to in vivo exposure, but such exposure is associated with high dropout rates and low treatment acceptance. Response to systemic desensitization is more moderate. Virtual reality exposure may be effective in flying and height phobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) [exposure with avoidant response prevention] is most helpful in claustrophobia. Blood-injury phobia is uniquely responsive to applied tension.

Ineffective therapies

The limited research on medication treatment for this disorder has not been promising. Vitamins and dietary supplements are ineffective for this disorder.

A Dangerous Cult


Back to top


Videos

Stories

Rating Scales


Back to top


Treatment Guidelines

Treatment


Back to top




Self-Help Resources For Specific Phobia


Improving Positive Behavior

Philosophers for the past 2,500 years have taught that it is very beneficial to start the day with goal-setting, and end the day with a brief review.

This habit of planning your day in the morning, and reviewing your day in the evening, is a time-proven technique for more successful living.

Note: When each of the following videos finishes; you must exit YouTube (by manually closing the window) in order to return to this webpage.



Morning Meditation (5-Minute Video)



Afternoon Meditation (Learn How To Have Healthy Relationships)



Evening Meditation (5-Minute Video)



Life Satisfaction Scale (Video)



Healthy Social Behavior Scale (Video)



Mental Health Scale (Video)




Click Here For More Self-Help



Back to top




    "In physical science a first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be."

    Lord Kelvin (1824 – 1907)


  • The best summary on bad research is given by Laura Arnold in this TEDx lecture. If you read nothing else about research, you owe it to yourself to watch this short video - it is excellent!

  • Canadian researchers who commit scientific fraud are protected by privacy laws: There are criminals in every community - even in the scientific research community (especially if a lot of money is at stake). Criminal researchers can hide their fraud behind outdated privacy laws.

  • The power of asking "what if?"

  • The active placebo effect: 2300 years ago, the Greek Stoic philosophers taught that it is not the objective event, but our subjective judgment about the event, that determines our behavior. The active placebo effect bears witness to this ancient wisdom.

  • Criteria For High Quality Research Studies

  • It is troubling that a recent study found that two-thirds of important psychological research studies couldn't be replicated. High quality research must meet the following criteria:

    • Randomized Controlled Trial:
      Ask: Was the trial randomized? Was the randomization procedure described and was it appropriate? The best research design is to have research subjects randomly assigned to an experimental or control group. It is essential that confounding factors be controlled for by having a control group or comparator condition (no intervention, placebo, care as usual etc.).

    • Representative Sample:
      Ask: Do the research subjects represent a normal cross-section of the population being studied? Many psychological research studies using university students are flawed because their subjects are not representative of the normal population since they are all W.E.I.R.D. (White, Educated, Intelligent, Rich, and living in a Democracy).

    • Single Blind Trial:
      Ask: Was the treatment allocation concealed? It is essential that the research subjects are kept "blind" as to whether they are in the experimental or control group (in order to control for any placebo effects).

    • Double Blind Trial (Better Than Single Blind Trial):
      Ask: Were blind outcome assessments conducted? In a double blind study, neither the research subjects nor the outcome assessors know if the research subject is in the experimental or control group. This controls for both the placebo effect and assessor bias.

    • Baseline Comparability:
      Ask: Were groups similar at baseline on prognostic indicators? The experimental and control groups must be shown to be comparable at the beginning of the study.

    • Confounding Factors:
      Ask: Were there factors, that weren't controlled for, that could have seriously distorted the study's results? For example, research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness cognitive therapy in preventing depressive relapse forgot to control for whether the research subjects were also simultaneously receiving antidepressant medication or other psychological treatments for depression.

    • Intervention Integrity:
      Ask: Was the research study protocal strictly followed? The research subjects must be shown to be compliant (e.g., taking their pills, attending therapy) and the therapists must be shown to be reliably delivering the intervention (e.g., staying on the research protocol).

    • Statistical analysis:
      Ask: Was a statistical power calculation described? The study should discuss its statistical power analysis; that is whether the study size is large enough to statistically detect a difference between the experimental and control group (should it occur) and usually this requires at least 50 research subjects in the study.

      Ask: Are the results both statistically significant and clinically significant? The results should be both statistically significant (with a p-value <0.05) and clinically significant using some measure of Effect Size such as Standardized Mean Difference (e.g., Cohen's d >= 0.33). The summary statistics should report what percentage of the total variance of the dependent variable (e.g., outcome) can be explained by the independent variable (e.g., intervention). In clinical studies, the study should report the number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome (NNTB), and the number needed to treat for an additional harmful outcome (NNTH).

        Number Needed To Benefit (NNTB): This is defined as the number of patients that need to be treated for one of them to benefit compared with a control in a clinical trial. (It is defined as the inverse of the absolute risk reduction.) Note: Statistically, the NNTB depends on which control group is used for comparison - e.g., active treatment vs. placebo treatment, or active treatment vs. no treatment.

        Number Needed To Harm (NNTH): This is defined as the number of patients that need to be treated for one of them to be harmed compared with a control in a clinical trial. (It is defined as the inverse of the absolute increase in risk of harm.)

        Tomlinson found “an NNTB of 5 or less was probably associated with a meaningful health benefit,” while “an NNTB of 15 or more was quite certain to be associated with at most a small net health benefit.”

      Ask: Does the researcher accept full responsibility for the study's statistical analysis? The researcher should not just hand over the study's raw data to a corporation (that may have $1,000 million invested in the study) to do the statistical analysis.

    • Completeness of follow-up data:
      Ask: Was the number of withdrawals or dropouts in each group mentioned, and were reasons given for these withdrawals or dropouts? Less than 20% of the research subjects should drop out of the study. The intervention effect should persist over an adequate length of time.

    • Handling of missing data:
      Ask: Was the statistical analysis conducted on the intention-to-treat sample? There must be use of intention-to-treat analysis (as opposed to a completers-only analysis). In this way, all of the research subjects that started the study are included in the final statistical analysis. A completers-only analysis would disregard those research subjects that dropped out.

    • Replication of Findings:
      Ask: Can other researchers replicate this study's results? The research study's methodology should be clearly described so that the study can be easily replicated. The researcher's raw data should be available to other researchers to review (in order to detect errors or fraud).

    • Fraud:
      Ask: Is there a suspicion of fraud? In a research study, examine the independent and dependent variables that are always measured as a positive whole number (e.g., a variable measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from "1 = definitely false to 5 = definitely true" etc.). For each of these variables, look at their sample size (n), mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) before they undergo statistical analysis. There is a high suspicion of fraud in a study's statistics:

      • If the M is mathematically impossible (online calculator): This is one of the easiest ways to mathematically detect fraud. The mean (M) is defined as "the sum (Sum) of the values of each observation divided by the total number (n) of observations". So: M = Sum/n. Thus: (Sum) = (M) multiplied by (n). We know that, if a variable is always measured as a positive whole number, the sum of these observations always has to be a whole number. For these variables to test for fraud: calculate (M) multiplied by (n). This calculates the Sum which MUST be a positive whole number. If the calculated Sum isn't a positive whole number; the reported mean (M) is mathematically impossible - thus the researcher either cooked the data or made a mistake. A recent study of 260 research papers published in highly reputable psychological journals found that 1 in 2 of these research papers reported at least one impossible value, and 1 in 5 of these research papers reported multiple impossible values. When the authors of the 21 worst offending research papers were asked for their raw data (so that its reliability could be checked) - 57% angrily refused. Yet such release of raw data to other researchers is required by most scientific journals. (Here is an example of a research paper filled with mathematically impossible means.)

      • If the SD is mathematically impossible (online calculator): When researchers fraudulently "cook" their data, they may accidently give their data a mean and standard deviation that is mathematically impossible.

      • If the SD/M is very small (i.e., the variable's standard deviation is very small compared to the mean suggesting data smoothing).

      • If the SD's are almost identical (i.e., the variables have different means but almost identical standard deviations).

      • If the 4th digit of the values of the variables aren't uniformly distributed - since each should occur 10% of the time (Benford's Law).

      • If the researcher is legally prevented from publishing negative findings about a drug or therapy because that would violate the "nondisclosure of trade secrets" clause in the research contract (i.e., it is a "trade secret" that the drug or therapy is ineffective - hence this can not be "disclosed"). Approximately half of all registered clinical trials fail to publish their results.

      • If the researcher refuses to release his raw data to fellow researchers (so that they can check its validity). In order to be published in most scientific journals, a researcher must promise to share his raw data with fellow researchers. Thus a researcher's refusal to do so is almost a sure indicator of fraud.

      • If the research study's data contradicts the study's own conclusions - surprisingly, this often occurs.

  • Calling Bullshit In The Age of Big Data - "Bullshit is language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence." Reading the syllabus of this university course should be required reading for every student of mental health. This syllabus is absolutely fantastic!

  • Statistical Methods in Psychology Journals: Guidelines and Explanations - American Psychologist 1999

  • Not All Scientific Studies Are Created Equal - video

  • The efficacy of psychological, educational, and behavioral treatment

  • Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

  • Psychologists grapple with validity of research

  • Industry sponsorship and research outcome (Review) - Cochrane Library

  • 'We've been deceived': Many clinical trial results are never published - (text and video)

  • Junk science misleading doctors and researchers

  • Junk science under spotlight after controversial firm buys Canadian journals

  • Medicine with a side of mysticism: Top hospitals promote unproven therapies - Are some doctors becoming modern witchdoctors?

  • When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes


  • Cochrane Collaboration - the best evidence-based, standardized reviews available

Research Topics

Specific Phobia - Latest Research (2016-2017)


Back to top



Which Behavioral Dimensions Are Involved?

Research has shown that there are 5 major dimensions (the "Big 5 Factors") of personality disorders and other mental disorders. There are two free online personality tests that assess your personality in terms of the "Big 5 dimensions of personality". Although not computerized online, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a 44-item test often used in personality research.

This website uses these 5 major dimensions of human behavior to describe all mental disorders. (This website adds one more dimension, "Physical Health", but our discussion will focus on the first 5 major dimensions.)

These major dimensions of human behavior seem to represent the major dimensions whereby our early evolutionary ancestors chose their hunting companions or spouse. To maximize their chance for survival, our ancestors wanted companions who were agreeable, conscientious, intelligent, sociable, emotionally stable, and physically healthy.

    Dimensions of Human Behavior That Are Impaired in Specific Phobia

    THE POSITIVE SIDE OF THE "BIG 5" PERSONALITY DIMENSIONS THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF THE "BIG 5" PERSONALITY DIMENSIONS THIS DISORDER
    Agreeableness Antagonism       Agreeableness
    Conscientiousness Disinhibition       Conscientiousness
    Intellect Decreased Intellect       Intellect
    Sociability (Extraversion) Detachment       Sociability (Extraversion)
    Emotional Stability Negative Emotion       Negative Emotion

The 5 Major Dimensions of Mental Illness

The Big 5 Factors or dimensions of mental illness each has a healthy side and an unhealthy side. Thus the Big 5 Factors are: (1) Agreeableness vs. Antagonism, (2) Conscientiousness vs. Disinhibition, (3) Intellect vs. Decreased Intellect, (4) Sociability (Extraversion) vs. Detachment (Introversion), and (5) Emotional Stability vs. Negative Emotion.

The Following Will Only Discuss The Dimensions of Mental Illness That Are Abnormal In This Disorder

The problems that are diagnostic of this disorder are highlighted in   Pink  . Other problems that are often seen in this disorder are highlighted in   Yellow  .



Treatment Goals for Individuals With Negative Emotion

EMOTIONAL STABILITY VS. NEGATIVE EMOTION
.
EMOTIONAL STABILITY
.
Description: Emotional Stability is synonymous with being calm and emotionally stable. The Emotional Stability dimension measures the behaviors that are central to the concept of COURAGE - having calm composure and endurance when confronting adversity. High emotional stability is associated with better: longevity, leadership, job [team] performance, and marital success. (This dimension appears to measure the behaviors that differentiate safety from danger.)
Descriptors: Calm, even-tempered, peaceful, confident
Language Characteristics: Pleasure talk, agreement, compliment, low verbal productivity, few repetitions, neutral content, calm, few self-references, many short silent pauses, few long silent pauses, many tentative words, few aquiescence, little exaggeration, less frustration, low concreteness.
"I am relaxed, and I handle stress well."
"I am emotionally stable, and not easily upset."
"I remain calm in tense situations."
"I rarely get irritated."
"I keep my emotions under control."
"I rarely lose my composure."
"I am not easily annoyed."
"I seldom feel blue."
"I feel comfortable with myself."
"I rarely feel depressed."
"I am not embarrassed easily."
.
NEGATIVE EMOTION
.
Description: Degree to which people experience persistent anxiety or depression and are easily upset. (This could be thought of as high threat sensitivity or low stress tolerance.)
Descriptors: Emotionally unstable, anxious, separation-insecure, depressed, self-conscious, oversensitive, vulnerable.
Language Characteristics: Problem talk, dissatisfaction, high verbal productivity, many repetitions, polarised content, stressed, many self-references, few short silent pauses, many long silent pauses, few tentative words, more aquiescence, many self references, exaggeration, frustration, high concreteness.
Research: Lower scores on Emotional Stability are associated with unhappiness, dysfunctional relationships, and mental health problems. *MRI research found that Low Emotional Stability (= Negative Emotion or Neuroticism) was associated with increased volume of brain regions associated with threat, punishment, and negative emotions.
.
* Emotional Instability:
"I get emotional easily, often for very little reason."
"I get emotional over every little thing."
"My emotions are unpredictable."
"I never know where my emotions will go from moment to moment."
"I am a highly emotional person."
"I have much stronger emotional reactions than almost everyone else."
"My emotions sometimes change for no good reason."
"I get angry easily."
"I get upset easily."
"I change my mood a lot."
"I am a person whose moods go up and down easily."
"I get easily agitated."
"I can be stirred up easily."
.
* Anxiety:
"I worry about almost everything."
"I'm always fearful or on edge about bad things that might happen."
"I always expect the worst to happen."
"I am a very anxious person."
"I get very nervous when I think about the future."
"I often worry that something bad will happen due to mistakes I made in the past."
"I am filled with doubts about things."
"I feel threatened easily."
"I am afraid of many things."
.
* Separation Insecurity:
"I fear being alone in life more than anything else."
"I can't stand being left alone, even for a few hours."
"I’d rather be in a bad relationship than be alone."
"I'll do just about anything to keep someone from abandoning me."
"I dread being without someone to love me."
.
* Submissiveness:
"I usually do what others think I should do."
"I do what other people tell me to do."
"I change what I do depending on what others want."
.
* Perseveration:
"I get stuck on one way of doing things, even when it's clear it won't work."
"I get stuck on things a lot."
"It is hard for me to shift from one activity to another."
"I get fixated on certain things and can’t stop."
"I feel compelled to go on with things even when it makes little sense to do so."
"I keep approaching things the same way, even when it isn’t working."
.
* Depressed Mood:
"I have no worth as a person."
"Everything seems pointless to me."
"I often feel like a failure."
"The world would be better off if I were dead."
"The future looks really hopeless to me."
"I often feel just miserable."
"I'm very dissatisfied with myself."
"I often feel like nothing I do really matters."
"I know I'll commit suicide sooner or later."
"I talk about suicide a lot."
"I feel guilty much of the time."
"I'm so ashamed by how I've let people down in lots of little ways."
"I am easily discouraged."
"I become overwhelmed by events."
.
("Emotional Stability vs. Negative Emotion" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.


Back to top


Internet Mental Health © 1995-2018 Phillip W. Long, M.D.