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Specific Phobia

On this page: What is a Specific Phobia? | What is the impact of a Specific Phobia? | What is the treatment for a Specific Phobia?

What is a Specific Phobia?

A Specific Phobia is a marked and persistent fear of a specific object or situation. There are four categories of specific phobias:

  • animal
  • natural environment, ie storms, heights, water
  • blood, injection, injury
  • situational, ie a specific situation, such as public transport, tunnels, bridges, elevators, flying

Other phobias include situations that may lead to choking, vomiting or contracting an illness.

Generally the person will avoid the object or situation, or they feel intense fear if they have to confront it.

Fear of the object or situation is distressing to the point that it causes disruption in emotional, social or occupational functioning. The person with the phobia recognise that their fear is excessive or unreasonable.

What is the impact of a Specific Phobia?

A person with a specific phobia may have to restrict their lifestyle to avoid the object or situation that they fear. Further, the fear may interfere with jobs that they take, or promotions.

What is the treatment for a Specific Phobia?

The primary treatment for a Specific Phobia is Behavioural Therapy where the person is gradually exposed to the object or situation they fear. There are two important step in this type of treatment:

  • First, the person must learn anxiety management strategies, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques to control anxiety symptoms.
  • Second, the person must gradually face the object or situation they fear.

Working with a psychologist to overcome the specific phobia can be helpful.

Taken from Andrews, G., Crino, R., Hunt, C., Lampe, L. & Page, A. (1994). The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: Clinician’s Guide and Patient Manuals. Cambridge University Press.

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