Nov 22nd 2022
M.S. Counseling Psychology
A specific phobia is an irrational fear of a particular object or situation that poses little or no actual danger. People suffering from a specific phobia feel the need to avoid the trigger in a way that may affect the person's everyday actions. Treatment includes therapy, medications, or a combination of both.
Previously known as a simple phobia, a specific phobia is an anxiety disorder that can cause fearful, anxious, and nervous reactions to an object or situation. Usually, the object or situation is not known to be dangerous, or the object/situation in question may not warrant the extent of the sufferer's response.
Unlike those with general anxiety, the overwhelming unreasonable fear in those with specific phobias is connected to one or more causes that produce an irrational reaction. Sometimes, even thoughts or a sense of dread of encountering the sources will produce the response. The reaction can vary from mildly uncomfortable to severely disabling.
These phobias, and the anxiety around them, can interfere with personal relationships, school attendance, and work. Patients with specific phobias are often aware that the source of their fear is not dangerous. Still, they are unable to control their reaction. Physical symptoms may resemble a panic attack (e.g., a fast heartbeat, nausea, diarrhea, shaking, tingling, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, or a feeling of choking). 
Phobias that interfere with daily life can stem from various items or circumstances. There is a long list of specific phobias that have occurred in patients. The following are groupings of the more common types: 
Even though specific phobias vary in nature, they tend to produce the same symptoms and behaviors: 
The cause or origin of certain specific phobias is still a mystery, even to experts. Some causes and risk factors include: 
Fears and phobias aren't the same. Simply having an aversion to an object or a situation, or feeling anxious around some thing or experience, does not mean there is a specific phobia. Phobias are diagnosed by a mental health professional using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5).
No biological markers determine phobia, meaning that a lab test will not find evidence of phobia. Mental health professionals use the following diagnostic criteria, where all criteria must be met: 
Because most phobias start at a young age, parents must treat their own phobias and manage their reactions around children. This prevents the child from mimicking this behavior and developing phobias.
Those who have been through a traumatic experience should seek mental health therapy to avoid a reaction that turns into a specific phobia.
There are different types of treatments for specific phobias and most patients will benefit from either one or a combination of both:
Talking with a mental health professional can help to manage the specific phobia. This can be in the form of Exposure therapy or Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Exposure therapy introduces the patient's specific phobia, related thoughts, feelings, and sensations in gradual and repeated activities.
CBT involves exposure to the source and learning other techniques, such as coping mechanisms and re-framing the feared object or situation. CBT emphasizes confidence and empowerment so that patients understand bodily reactions and are not overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings.
Managing a phobia can keep the physical and mental responses to a fearful object or situation under check. Mindful techniques such as meditation can help tolerate anxiety and reduce any avoidant behavior that affects one’s everyday life.
Relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation have also been known to help in cases of specific phobias. These methods decrease anxiety and help a person cope with the stress of a situation as it unfolds. Physical activity also helps manage the stress that comes about with specific phobias.
Some people choose to face their fears. Much like exposure therapy, tiny steps in facing a phobia can be conducted in a safe and controlled way by creating small steps to become acclimated to the situation or object in question.
Support groups can help you connect with others with your same fears, so that you can find help in each other too. 
However, there are ways to support those with specific phobias to have a better quality of life.
Specific phobias should not be considered taboo subjects, but should be talked about freely. In particular, let a child know that everyone has scary thoughts sometimes, and some will find these thoughts more distressing than others.
Specific phobias should not be reinforced by avoiding situations where these can be met. Instead, assist a child in facing their fear if the occasion arises, always remaining close enough so that they feel safe and supported. In consequent events, increase the exposure slowly.
A child will learn by watching. When exposed to something you fear, you can demonstrate how to work through your fear and cope with the situation.
It is estimated that around 9% of adults in the US have a specific phobia during a calendar year. Among adults, the prevalence is higher in females. Approximately 12.5% of adults in the US will experience a specific phobia in their lifetime. The good news is that almost half of those with specific phobias experience mild symptoms. 
Most people with phobias can get better with therapy, medications, or a combination of both. This outlook is better for those who get early treatment or receive an intervention following a traumatic event. With the right treatment, most patients with specific phobias can lead full and productive lives.
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