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's hard to do normal activities, such as
going to work.
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.
Your heart pounds, your palms sweat, and you begin to tremble. These physical reactions to danger put your body on high alert. But if you're gripped with fear when there is little or no real danger, like when you're on a plane taxiing down a runway to take off, the real culprit may be anxiety.
"Anxiety is a world-class bluffer. It bluffs people into thinking they're in danger when they're really not," says Martin N. Seif, PhD, a psychologist in New York City and Greenwich, Conn., who co-founded...
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 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.