Specific Phobia is an excessive fear in the presence or anticipation of an object or situation. Exposure to the feared object or situation will elicit an immediate increase in anxiety. Often, individuals with a Specific Phobia will avoid the feared object or situation or endure it with heightened distress. Some common phobias include fear of flying, driving, animals, storms, heights, and seeing blood. Sometimes people with specific phobias will experience panic attacks in the presence of the feared object or situation. The avoidance and/or anxiety related to the feared object or situation will often interfere with the individual’s daily routine, work or school functioning, or social life. Individuals with the phobia realize that that the fear related to their phobia is excessive or unreasonable.
The prevalence of Specific Phobias ranges from 4-11% in the general population, depending on how it’s measured. Although having a phobia is fairly common, it is rare that it will significantly impact an individual’s life. The development of Specific Phobias can begin in childhood or early adolescence. Usually the fear of the specific stimulus will begin prior to it becoming impairing or extremely distressing. Before the onset of the phobia individuals will often be exposed to certain factors, such as being involved in some kind of traumatic event (such as being attacked by an animal), having an unexpected panic attack related to the specific object or situation, or observing someone going through a traumatic event or demonstrating extreme fear.