A phobia is an intensely fearful response to a situation or object. 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:
The cause of phobias is unknown. It may be a combination of genetic factors, family environment, critical life stressors, and underlying temperament that interact to enhance or trigger cerebral fear networks.
People with phobias cannot control their anxiety.
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:
Symptoms occur when you are exposed to the object or situation that you fear. Your fear may become more intense if you can't easily get away from it.
Psychological symptoms may include:
Physical symptoms may include:
Physical Effects of Anxiety
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You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychological exam will be done.
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 1 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
Agoraphobia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116901/Agoraphobia. Updated October 17, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2016.
Anxiety and stressor-related disorders. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric_disorders/anxiety_and_stressor-related_disorders/overview_of_anxiety_disorders.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed February 19, 2016.
Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/phobias. Accessed February 19, 2016.
Phobias and fears. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/phobias-and-fears.htm. Updated March 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115906/Social-anxiety-disorder. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113844/Specific-phobia. Updated March 13, 2013. Accessed FFebruary 19, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, 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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