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A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that describes an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Phobias involve intense fear surrounding an object or situation that realistically poses little or no real danger. They are different from common fears in that the associated anxiety is so strong it interferes with daily life and the ability to function normally. People suffering from phobias may go to extreme lengths to avoid encountering or experiencing the feared object or situation.
Though many people with phobias realize that their worry is unrealistic or unwarranted, feelings of fear and anxiety persist and seem unmanageable, leaving sufferers feeling out of control.
The American Psychiatric Association identifies three types of phobias:
A few of the most common specific phobias include:
Symptoms of phobias are similar to those of a panic attack. When faced with the specific object, activity, or situation that is the subject of intense fear, an individual with a phobia may exhibit the following symptoms:
Most phobias develop in childhood, and are commonly passed down by a family member. However, the main cause of phobias is still unknown. Frequent causes of phobias include:
Having phobias and fears is common, and often rational. However, if these fears begin to interfere with daily life, consult with a doctor. For example, a phobia of driving on the freeway should not be so strong that it keep a person from driving to work or school.
Thankfully, phobias are highly treatable, and treatments are usually very effective. Many who receive therapy for phobias see significant results in as little as 1-4 treatment sessions.
Some utilize self-help strategies for dealing with and treating phobias, which may be effective for certain individuals. However, if the phobias in question are severe, especially if they're severe to the point of causing panic attacks, you may want to find professional help for treating your phobia. Those with a clinically diagnosed phobia might consider seeking professional treatment using one of the following treatment methods:
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