Phobias are essentially intense fears, usually of situations, objects, animals, people or activities.  Sometimes these fears are so great that they interfere with the sufferers daily lives and cause an anxiety disorder. 

The list of common phobias is a long one, but the fears of flying, heights, spiders, snakes and being in open spaces are some of the most prevalent.  The latter, agoraphobia, is particularly notable in terms of impairing the sufferers quality of life and often sees him or her unable to leave their home at all. 

Phobias are generally caused by a specific event during which the individual felt particularly threatened or endangered, so causing them to do anything to avoid a repetition. 

The treatment of phobias involves helping to replace the often irrational fear with perceptions which are more realistic or rational. The world phobia comes from the Greek word that means fear. A phobia is a strong, persistent, and unwarranted fear of some specific object or situation. An individual with a phobia attempts to avoid the object or situation inappropriately (as it does not present any real danger). There are three main groups of phobic disorders:

  1. Specific (isolated) phobias: are unwarranted fears caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. These phobias can be blood, injuries, injections, situations (planes, elevators, enclosed spaces), animals, heights, water. Lifetime prevalence is about 7% for men and 16% for women.
  2. Agoraphobia- The term originates from the Greek for fear of the market place, but it now has a wider meaning than just fear of open or public space. It also involves fear of being far from home, family and friends. Many people with agoraphobia are unable to leave the house or do so only with great distress. This is an intense fear of being in public places where escape or help may not be readily available. Many people report having panic attacks before developing agoraphobia and is far more prevalence in females.
  3. Social phobias- is an intense, excessive fear of being scrutinized by others and also a fear that the person may act in a humiliating or embarrassing way. The most common fears in social phobia involve public speaking and meeting new people. The age of onset is mid-teens and life prevalence between 3-13%.

Did You Know?

Although specific (isolated)phobias are the most common in the general population, agoraphobia is the cause of 60% of the phobic clients seen by professionals.

Phobias are more common in women with the age of onset between 20-40.

Causes of Phobias

How do such strong and “irrational “ fears develop? Research suggested evidence from an interaction of biological, cognitive and environmental factors.

Treatment of Phobias

Specific and social phobias have been successfully treated by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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