A phobia is an intensely fearful response to something that would not normally cause fear. Phobias can interfere with different aspects of your life. Most phobias develop in childhood, though some develop during adulthood.
There are many kinds of phobias, which can be grouped into these categories:
People may recognize a phobia as irrational, but do not have any control over their fear response or anxiety. If you think you have a phobia, talk to your doctor.
It is not clear what causes phobias. Factors that may affect the development of a phobia include:
Phobias are more common in women than in men. They also tend to run in families. You may have an increased chance of developing a phobia if you have an immediate family member with a phobia.
Symptoms occur when you are exposed to the object or situation that you fear. Your fear may be more intense if you cannot easily get away from it.
Psychological symptoms may include:
Physical symptoms may include:
Physical Effects of Anxiety
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Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychological exam will be done. You may be referred to a specialist.
There are no tests that can diagnose phobias. The diagnosis will be made based on your symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Therapy will be based on your individual needs. It may be done in combination with other treatment methods. Some therapy options include:
You may also benefit from joining a support group.
Your doctor may recommend medication to reduce panic and anxiety attacks. Medications may include:
American Psychiatric Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Phobias. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.psychiatry.org/phobias. Accessed March 6, 2013.
Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/phobias. Accessed March 6, 2013.
Phobias and fears. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/phobia_symptoms_types_treatment.htm. Updated February 2013. Accessed March 6, 2013.
Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated Novembe 9, 2012. Accessed March 6, 2013.
Last reviewed February 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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