Having a phobia means you are extremely afraid of a specific object,
situation, or activity. Having a phobia about something is very different from
everyday worry or stress. For example, most people feel worry and stress at
some time, such as when speaking in front of a large group of people. People
with phobias have so much fear that it is hard to do normal activities, such as
going to work.
The first step is to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are being caused by a medical condition that is not psychiatric. Among the conditions that produce symptoms similar to those of anxiety are hyperthyroidism or other endocrine problems, too much or too little calcium, low blood sugar, and certain heart problems. A thorough evaluation by your health care provider will determine if any of these conditions are the cause of your symptoms.
If no other medical culprit can be found and the...
Having a phobia includes feeling stressed about
being near the object, being in the situation, or doing the activity. It also
includes being afraid of the object, situation, or activity itself. People with
phobias avoid what they are afraid of so they won't feel worried and stressed.
There are five types of phobias:
Natural environment phobias, such as being afraid of storms
Animal phobias, such as being afraid of spiders or
Blood-injection-injury phobias, such as being afraid of blood
or getting a shot (injection)
Situational phobias, such as being
afraid of elevators or bridges
Other phobias, such as being afraid
of choking or throwing up. Other phobias in children include being afraid of
loud noises or characters in costumes, such as clowns.
About 11% of people have had a phobia at some time.1 Women are twice as likely as men to have a phobia. Many
people who have phobias also have another problem such as an
What causes phobias?
The cause of phobias is unknown. If you have a
family member with a phobia, you are more likely to have a phobia. Sometimes a
person might have a phobia because he or she:
Had something bad happen, such as being bitten by a
panic attack in a specific situation, such as being in
Saw something bad happen to someone else, such as seeing a person
fall off of a building.
Saw someone else who was very scared of
something, such as sitting in an airplane near a person who is afraid of
Learned about something bad happening, such as a plane
Phobias usually start when a person is a child or a
teenager. Children have more animal phobias, natural environment phobias, and
blood-injection-injury phobias than teenagers or adults. Situational phobias
usually start when a person is an adult. Women often have phobias at a younger
age than men do. If a person has one phobia, he or she is likely to have
another phobia as well.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of a phobia is being more afraid than most people of
being around an object, being in a situation, or doing an activity. A person
with a phobia might also be stressed about the possibility of being around the
object, being in the situation, or doing the activity. Children show their
stress by crying, throwing tantrums, freezing, or clinging to someone