How to Treat a Phobia

How to Treat a Phobia

The uncle who never left his house, the sister who missed a family trip to Alaska because she wouldn’t get on an airplane, and the 10-year-old nephew who refused to see a doctor are all irrational fears.

It is probably time to get help if you are afraid of snakes in the toilet or a hairy spider under the covers, because most of us wouldn’t be thrilled to find them.

The Difference Between Fear and Phobia

The termphobia is thrown around a lot, but it isn’t the same as a fear or aphobia.

Essentially, fear is temporary; phobia isn’t.

A fear of heights can cause a stumbling block in your life, and you will do anything to avoid the object of that fear. A type of anxiety disorder called phabia is when the fear becomes so bad that it becomes disabling. A job offer is a good example. You made it through the hardest part of landing your dream job, only to find out that you will be on the 20th floor of an office building with a fear of heights. You pass up a job opportunity because of your fear, in order to avoid being so high off the ground.

Phobias can make it hard to enjoy the things you love with your friends. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is hope for people with fear.

Are you suffering from anxiety? If you take our anxiety quiz, you can see if you can benefit from further diagnosis and treatment. Take a anxiety quiz.

Aphobia is an intense fear of one or more things that does not match the actual danger of what you fear.

A fear of dogs can be a specific fear. It can be like being in a social setting or public place.

Having a fear is a medical diagnosis and not a word to be thrown around lightly. It is helpful to have a deeper understanding of fear and why we experience it.

How Fear Works in the Brain

The brain helps keep you alive by warning you of dangers. The brain senses danger when it senses an internal alarm system that sends out signals that make it feel afraid or anxious. These are reactions that are triggered by what your brain sees as dangerous or scary.

Without fear, we would put ourselves into life threatening situations without taking proper precautions. A phobia is not a real fear, but a fear that is irrational and poses little or no threat to you.

If you have a fear of a certain situation, the brain will alarm it in a way that will cause you to avoid that situation in the future. It makes aphobia worse because it makes the brain associations between the situation and threat level worse.

Steve Mazza, PhD, a senior clinical psychologist at the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders in New York, says that someone with a dogphobia will feel their brain alarm system go off every time they are near a dog. The person never has the chance to change their alarm system to be more alert to the actual threat of the environment if they continue to avoid dogs.

Joe Bienvenu, MD, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Baltimore, says that knowing that brain processes are meant to protect us from danger can help people de-stigmatize phobias. Our brains are adapted to be afraid of snakes. Even social phobias, like a fear of public speaking, can be adaptive because they are social animals and how other people evaluate them can have consequences.

What Are the Three Types of Phobias?

Specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia transcranial magnetic stimulation are all types of anxiety disorders and all have the same emotional reaction.

There are differences between the types of phobias.

Types of Specific Phobias

A specific fear is an irrational fear of a particular thing, such as a clown or a storm, that can affect the way you live. The object or situation is usually not dangerous and the fear of it is often interfering with your life.

Within specific phobias, there are five different categories:1

Animals and insects have phobias.

Natural phenomena like storms, heights, and water have biases.

A blood test or needles are similar to Phobias of blood or injury.

Flying in planes, driving cars, or being in confined places are some of the situations that have a biases.

Other fears include catching an illness, or choking.

It is estimated that 19.3% of teens and 11.2% of adults in the US will deal with a specific phobia at some point in their lives, making it the most common type of anxiety disorder. Adult women tend to develop specific phobias at a higher rate than men. Women are more likely to have anxiety disorders. The reasons for this are still being explored, but it is likely related to hormones.

Social Anxiety Disorder (previously known as social phobia)

Most people have felt nervous or anxious in a social setting at some point in their lives. First dates, job interviews, and giving a performance are some examples of nerve-wracking social situations.

Social anxiety disorder is more than just a bout of nerves. It is a disorder that leads you to avoid certain social situations due to intense anxiety, fear, and embarrassment of other people watching or judging you. Social anxiety disorder is a fear that is very hard to overcome. People with social anxiety disorder may experience fear only in certain settings, like meeting new people, talking to colleagues, or performing in front of an audience.

It is estimated that 12.1% of US adults and 9.1% of teens will experience a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, making it slightly less common than specific phobias. Women are more likely to be affected by social anxiety disorder.


Agoraphobia is a fear of any place or situation that you fear will make you avoid it, such as being alone in public or being in a crowded area.

It is a fear of anxiety in certain places that is the root of it. It is related to panic disorder, which is characterized by frequent panic attacks. It is estimated that one out of three people with panic disorder will develop agoraphobia, making it the least common type of phobia. The prevalence of agoraphobia is higher for women than for men.

Causes of Specific Phobia

There are not fully understood reasons why people develop phobias. Children with developing brains are more likely to start with specific phobias. A child who develops a fear of dogs after being bitten by one is a common example of how the brain can take in information that teaches them to fear something. They could learn to fear a dog by watching a movie that features a scary dog or by watching a family member flinch.

Experiences in childhood are one of the reasons why someone may develop a specific fear. Genetics may play a role.

Genetics and life experiences may be related to many specific phobias. Social anxiety disorders and agoraphobia are the same. Teens are more vulnerable to developing social anxiety disorders because of the changes in hormones that occur in the teen years. Agoraphobia and panic disorders start in young adulthood, and have a lot of overlap.

Specific Phobia Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing a specific fear are environmental, genetic, and temperamental. Negative affectivity and behavioral inhibition are two risk factors for anxiety disorders, and they can be related to disgust, anger, fear, and guilt.

Environmental risk factors that increase the likelihood of an individual developing a specific phobia include parental over protectiveness, physical and sexual abuse and traumatic encounters.

If an individual has a relative who is afraid of flying, the individual is more likely to have a different type of phobia than any other person.

Phobia Symptoms

Symptoms of a phobias include feelings of panic and fear, racing heart, difficulty breathing, shaking or trembling, and a strong urge to leave the situation.

There are physical and emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

Racing heart

Difficulty breathing

Trembling or shaking



Dry mouth

Chest pain or tightness

Emotional Symptoms

Feeling overwhelming anxiety or fear

Knowing that your fear is irrational, but powerless to overcome it.

Fear of losing control

Feeling an intense need to escape

Social anxiety disorder symptoms can be caused by avoidance of social situations or intense discomfort in social situations that are difficult to avoid. 14

agoraphobia is a fear of being alone in a crowded space or being unable to escape, and it can be caused by fear of anxiety or a panic attack.

Specific Phobia Symptoms

If you have a fear of clowns or dogs, you may experience some symptoms.

There is sudden fear, anxiety, and panic when thinking about the source of the fear.

The inability to control or subdue the fear

As you get closer to the source of the fear, you start to experience anxiety.

The source of fear is the most important source of fear.

If avoidance is difficult, you experience anxiety.

It is difficult to function normally or to the best of your ability because of the fear. 13

DSM-5 Specific Phobia

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used to diagnose phobias. Each type of phobia has a list of features.

If you think you have a fear, you should see a doctor or psychologist. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your history of illnesses and medical conditions at the appointment.

Seven Diagnostic Criteria for Specific Phobias

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines seven criteria for specific phobias.

Fear or anxiety about a situation is marked. Children may cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry,

The phobic object is almost always frightening.

The phobic object is avoided or is in some way encountered with fear.

The actual danger posed by the object or situation is more important than the fear or anxiety.

The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is usually lasting for 6 months or more.

The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Fear, anxiety, and avoidance of situations associated with panic-like symptoms are symptoms of another mental disorder that are not better explained by the disturbance.

Specific Phobia Treatment

Many phobias can be cured with proper treatment. Treatment for all phobias is the same as for specific phobias.

That should be encouraging for people with anxiety, says the director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. There is a lot of data that shows that the same principles that are used for treating specific phobias are also effective for treating social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia.

She says that the principles are cognitive behavioral therapy and therapy exposure.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Talk therapy is called psychotherapy. One type of therapy that involves working with a mental health professional is called cognitive behavioral therapy. Think of therapy exercises as mental health homework because they are frequently assigned and expected to be completed outside of sessions. The goal of treating phobias is to change thinking, behavior, and reactions. You will be encouraged to identify negative or irrational thinking patterns through sessions and outside exercises.

Exposure therapy is important in treating phobias. Exposure therapy exposes you to a fear. By facing it and not feeling fear, you will get used to it and stop reacting to it with anxiety.

You expose the person to the feared stimuli until they are comfortable with the threat level. The alarm system becomes less sensitive and more based on reality.

Exposure therapy may be able to treat a dog fear.

In early sessions, you may be asked to think about dogs and explain what comes to mind.

You may be asked to look at pictures of dogs.

You may be asked to go near a dog.

You may be asked to pet a dog.

The same approach can be used to treat anxiety disorders.

In some cases, research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can be equally or even more effective than other forms of therapy.

Other Treatments for Phobias That Don’t Involve Medication

It is possible to treat phobias with alternatives to medication. Other treatments for phobias that don’t involve medication are also included.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training can be used for people with social anxiety disorder. Roles-playing social interactions with a therapist, exposure to social situations, or general exercises are some of the things that may be involved in social skills training.


A type of meditation called musn is a way to help with anxiety disorders. It encourages awareness of feelings and sensations in the present moment, like CBT.

Support Groups

If you join a support group for people who share the same type of fear, you can learn more about how other people deal with it.

Treating Phobias with Medication

Some medications can be used to treat different types of phobias. These medications can help reduce or manage anxiety. If you have a type of phobia and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will tell you if medication is helpful or not. Ask your doctor questions about why they recommend a certain medication, the benefits of the medication, and what to expect while taking it.

There are medication options that may be used to treat phobias.

Anti-anxiety drugs. They help reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms. The most common anti-anxiety medication is benzodiazepines. They are quick-acting, meaning that they can reduce anxiety symptoms. They can make you tired, because they have a sedating effect. They can be addictive. They are only prescribed for a short time and are meant to be taken on an occasional basis for people with intense anxiety episodes in difficult to avoid situations. 16, 15

Depressions. Antidepressants balance the levels of brain chemicals involved in mood and emotion. Two types of antidepressants are most commonly used for anxiety disorders and phobias. If you are prescribed an antidepressants, you will need to take it for a long time before you notice any improvement. 16

There areblockers. These drugs are designed to treat high blood pressure, but they can also help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, like a racing heartbeat and shaking or trembling. They are best used to prevent anxiety before giving a speech. 16

If you are wondering if you have a fear, have been diagnosed with a fear, or have a loved one who is struggling with a fear, check out the National Institute of Mental Health. The National Institute of Mental Health has a lot of information on its website about anxiety disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a group. This organization is the largest in the US. They have a website to learn more about phobias and other anxiety disorders, an online community, the latest research, and access to mental health providers. The Behavioral Health Treatment Program Locator is a website. The SAMHSA can help you find treatment for anxiety disorders using their mental health treatment program locator. What is the difference between fear andphobia? The brain is capable of triggering fear in response to situations that it considers dangerous. Fear protects us from danger and allows us to take precautions. Aphobia is a fear that is exaggerated and intense and can lead to extreme anxiety in certain settings even though the situation is not very threatening. Experiencing fear can protect us, but it can affect our quality of life. What is the most common fear? Specific phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. Animals and heights are thought to be some of the most common phobias. How do you know if you have a specific fear? Here are some of the signs that you should seek treatment for a fear.

You feel anxious or afraid about a specific thing.

You feel anxious or afraid when you are in public.

Your fear is so intense that it can lead you to avoid the source of your fear or it can lead to great difficulty.

Your fear is interfering with your ability to function normally. How do you get a fear? We don’t know why people are afraid of something. Childhood is when specific phobias tend to start because a child’s brain is still learning how to respond to certain stimuli. A child who develops a fear of heights may have had a bad experience with heights, like falling off a jungle gym, or may have taken in information that encouraged a fear of heights, like seeing someone fall on TV. Past experiences are not the only cause of specific phobias. Genetics may play a role in the development of a specific fear. Genetics and life experiences are thought to be the causes of social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. Teenagers are more likely to suffer from social anxiety disorders in the teen years. The age of onset is similar to panic disorder since agoraphobia is related to panic disorder. Young adults are more likely to have panic disorder and agoraphobia. How many people have a fear? Specific phobias, social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia are the main categories of phobias. Animals, natural environment, situations, blood and injuries, and “other” are some of the types of phobias.

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