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Phobia - simple/specific

Anxiety disorder - phobia

A phobia is an ongoing intense fear or anxiety of a certain object, animal, activity, or setting that poses little to no actual danger.

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Fears and phobias

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Causes

Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder in which a person may feel extremely anxious or has a panic attack when exposed to the object of fear. Specific phobias are a common mental disorder.

Common phobias include the fear of:

Symptoms

Being exposed to the feared object or even thinking about being exposed to it causes an anxiety reaction.

You avoid settings in which you may come into contact with the feared object or animal. For example, you may avoid driving through tunnels, if tunnels are your phobia. This type of avoidance can interfere with your job and social life.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will ask about your history of phobia, and will get a description of the behavior from you, your family, or friends.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to help you live your daily life without being impaired by your fears. The success of the treatment usually depends on how severe your phobia is.

Talk therapy is often tried first. This may involve any of the following:

Certain medicines, usually used to treat depression, may be very helpful for this disorder. They work by preventing your symptoms or making them less severe. You must take these medicines every day. DO NOT stop taking them without talking with your provider.

Medicines called sedatives (or hypnotics) may also be prescribed.

If you are prescribed a sedative, do not drink alcohol while on this medicine. Other measures that can reduce the number of attacks include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Phobias tend to be ongoing, but they can respond to treatment.

Possible Complications

Some phobias may affect job performance or social functioning. Some anti-anxiety medicines used to treat phobias may cause physical dependence.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your provider if a phobia is interfering with life activities.

References

American Psychiatric Association. Anxiety disorders. In: American Psychiatric Association, ed. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013:189-234.

Calkins AW, Bui E, Taylor CT, Pollack MH, LeBeau RT, Simon NM. Anxiety disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.

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Review Date: 3/26/2018  

Reviewed By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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