Phobias - Causes Types Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment FAQs
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“Fear is that little dark room where negatives are developed”. - Michael Pritchard

Phobias are irrational and excessive anxieties triggered by an imaginary or exaggerated fear of an object or situation. Simple fears become phobias when a person goes to extreme lengths to avoid the distressing object or situation.

Phobias, classified under anxiety disorders, are not due to a malfunction of the brain and can be effectively treated. People driven by a sense of fear begin to restrict their lives in order to avoid a frightening situation.

People of all ages and from all walks of life across the world can develop phobic reactions.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 19.2 million American adults or 8.7% of people suffer from one or more specific phobias.


In an article ‘Our Most Common Fears,’ Forbes magazine listed the nine most common phobias. The fear of Spiders (Arachnophobia) is the most common phobia in the world -50% of women and 10% of men fear spiders. Social Phobia (or Social anxiety) is the second commonest phobia and comes from fear of being evaluated negatively in social situations.

Some of the common phobias include: –

• Confined spaces (claustrophobia)

• Heights (acrophobia)

• Water (hydrophobia/aquaphobia)

• Fire (arsonphobia)

People tend to treat a few phobias lightly as they are shared commonly by many. Examples of such phobias are:-

• Fear of men (androphobia)

• Fear of speaking in public (glossophobia)

• Fear of crowds (enochlophobia)

• Fear of streets or crossing the street (agyrophobia)

• Fear of thunder and lightning (astrapophobia/keraunophobia)

• Fear of being alone (autophobia)

Phobias could have an evolutionary significance and they may be inherited. It is believed that there maybe a combination of family history, genetics, and brain chemistry, together with life situations causing phobias and panic attacks. A 2006 report from Harvard Medical School titled “Coping with Anxiety and Phobia” suggests that gender appears to play a role in some types of anxiety disorders. The study explores hormonal and biological factors and differential experiences that could account for the disparities.

• Women’s chances of suffering from panic disorder or social phobia are double compared with men.

• Women are three times as likely to experience agoraphobia (fear of being in public places).

• Women have a higher risk for specific phobia, which is fear of a particular object or situation.

• Only about 5%–6% of men experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to about 10%–14% of women who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lives.

• 3.6% of men have general anxiety disorder while 6.6% of women have general anxiety disorder.

Treatment of phobias includes counseling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

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