What Is A Specific Phobia?
A specific phobia is an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias focus on small enclosed places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood. Phobias are more than just extreme fear – they are irrational fear of a particular thing. You may feel fine flying in airplanes but be unable to go above the 5th floor of an office building. While adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.
NIMH estimates that specific phobias affect an estimated 6.3 million adult Americans and are twice as common in women as in men. The causes of specific phobias are not well understood, though there is some evidence that, like in other anxiety disorders, these phobias may run in families. Specific phobias usually first appear during childhood or adolescence and tend to persist into adulthood.
If it’s easy to avoid the object of the fear, then people with specific phobias may not seek treatment. In other cases they may make important career or personal decisions just to avoid a phobic situation. Specific phobias are highly treatable with carefully targeted psychotherapy.