“The only thing we have to fear is fear it’self – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that describes an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Phobias involve intense fear surrounding an object or situation that realistically poses little or no real danger. They are different from common fears in that the associated anxiety is so strong it interferes with daily life and the ability to function normally. People suffering from phobias may go to extreme lengths to avoid encountering or experiencing the feared object or situation.

Though many people with phobias realize that their worry is unrealistic or unwarranted, feelings of fear and anxiety persist and seem unmanageable, leaving sufferers feeling out of control.

Duration: at least 6 months

Types of phobias

The American Psychiatric Association identifies three types of phobias:

Specific Phobia: Going to extreme lengths to avoid an activity or object because of fear of danger or harm.

Examples: Fear of heights, snakes, spiders

Social Phobia: A fear of being humiliated or under performing in social situations. Also known as social anxiety disorder.

Examples: Fear of public speaking, public restrooms, eating in front of others

Agoraphobia: Feeling discomfort in situations where escape is difficult or help is not readily available.

Examples: Fear of leaving the house, public transportation, small spaces

A few of the most common specific phobias include:

Arachnophobia: fear of spiders

Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes

Acrophobia: fear of heights

Cynophobia: fear of dogs

Astraphobia: fear of thunder and/or lightning

Trypophobia: fear of holes

Aerophobia: fear of flying

Xenophobia: fear of the unknown or unfamiliar (such as foreigners)

Claustrophobia: fear of small spaces

Glossophobia: fear of public speaking

Emetophobia: fear of vomiting


Symptoms of phobias are similar to those of a panic attack. When faced with the specific object, activity, or situation that is the subject of intense fear, an individual with a phobia may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, dread, and panic
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Tightening of the chest and feelings of choking
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • An overwhelming desire to escape


Most phobias develop in childhood, and are commonly passed down by a family member. However, the main cause of phobias is still unknown. Frequent causes of phobias include:

  • Traumatic experience involving object of fear
  • Experiencing a panic attack in specific situation or around an object
  • Witnessing someone else being harmed by specific activity or object
  • Hearing a tragic story involving a specific activity or object

Having phobias and fears is common, and often rational. However, if these fears begin to interfere with daily life, consult with a doctor. For example, a phobia of driving on the freeway should not be so strong that it keep a person from driving to work or school.

Get help


Thankfully, phobias are highly treatable, and treatments are usually very effective. Many who receive therapy for phobias see significant results in as little as 1-4 treatment sessions.

Some utilize self-help strategies for dealing with and treating phobias, which may be effective for certain individuals. However, if the phobias in question are severe, especially if they’re severe to the point of causing panic attacks, you may want to find professional help for treating your phobia. Those with a clinically diagnosed phobia might consider seeking professional treatment using one of the following treatment methods:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): a form of psychotherapeutic treatment that focuses on exploring the patterns of thinking that lead to inappropriate responses in an individual.

Exposure Therapy: a form of psychotherapeutic treatment that exposes patients to their fears in a gradual, systematic, and secure way. Exposure therapy uses extinction learning to teach the individual that their feared object or situation doesn’t truly result in the expected negative response, leading to a decrease in distress when faced by the feared object.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): a methodology that teaches people to be aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations from moment to moment without judgment or blame.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): a type of mindfulness psychotherapy that helps guide people into accepting negative experiences and challenges

Supplementing these methods with alternative treatments like meditation, mindfulness training, or yoga may facilitate recovery.

MOBIEG Helpline

You can chat to an online facilitator for more help. The service is free and you may stay anonymous. We are online Sundays: 18h00-20h00; Mondays – Thursdays: 19h00-21h00. Just click on LIVE CHAT to connect to a counselor.



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