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Specific Phobia Disorder

What is Specific Phobia Disorder?

When an individual suffers from Specific Phobia Disorder they experience an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of a certain object or certain situation that in reality is of no danger. However, such situation or object provokes anxiety or avoidance in an individual. Such phobia or fear is nothing like the emotions experienced when an individual is speaking in front of an audience or when taking a test. When an individual suffers from Specific Phobia Disorder, the emotions that they are experiencing are so intense that it begins to impair the individuals’ ability to function normally (i.e. at work, school, or social settings).

It is important to note that Specific Phobia Disorder is among the most common anxiety disorders and that not all phobias may need treatment however, if such phobia is affecting the individual’s daily life, then it is recommended that an individual seeks therapy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are many types of phobia including, but not limited to the following:

  • Situations (i.e. airplanes or enclosed spaces)
  • Nature (i.e. thunderstorms)
  • Animals (i.e. dogs or spiders)
  • Blood, injections or injuries (i.e. needles or medical procedures)
  • Other (i.e. choking, vomiting, falling down or clowns)

What are the symptoms of Specific Phobia Disorder?

  • An individual expresses an excessive or irrational fear of a specific object or situation
  • An individual tends to avoid the object or situation
  • Physical Symptoms that include, but are not limited to the following:
    • Panic attacks
    • Heart pounding
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Shaking
    • Sweating
    • Lightheaded
    • Numbness and/or tingling
  • An individual may become nervous ahead of time when they know they may come across such object or situation
    • For example, an individual who is afraid of dogs may be afraid of going for a walk because they know that they may come across a dog.

Note: Children may express their fear and/or anxiety though crying or throwing a tantrum for example.

What causes Specific Phobia Disorder?

Although the exact cause is not known, traumatic experiences or learned reactions are believed to increase the chances of an individual developing a phobia for an object or situation. For example, if an individual was brutally attacked by a dog, they may in turn develop such fear and/or anxiety towards it.

How is Specific Phobia Disorder treated?

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Systematic Desensitization or Exposure
      • The individual is exposed to what is frightening them or causing them anxiety until the fear begins to go away
    • Medication
      • Short-acting Sedative-hypnotics (i.e. Ativan or Xanax)
      • If phobia is accompanied by depression or panic disorder for example, long-term medications may be used (i.e. antidepressants)
    • Relaxation Techniques
      • Deep breathing
      • Meditation

How can I cope with Specific Phobia Disorder?

  • Educate yourself with the disorder
    • Learn the facts
  • Learn your triggers
  • Seek professional support
    • Do as instructed (i.e. attend all therapy sessions or take medication as prescribed)
  • Challenge yourself
    • For example, if you are afraid of spiders, start by looking at spider images, going to the pet store and looking at spiders, and then touching fake spiders and so on until you are able to get rid of the fear (THIS WILL TAKE TIME)