A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity or situation that in reality presents little or no danger. Some of the more common phobias include animals, snakes, spiders and insects, heights, escalators and tunnels, highway driving, riding on trains or airplanes, medical procedures, needles or the sight of blood.
While some phobias develop in childhood, others develop unexpectedly, usually in adolescence or early adulthood. Over 19 million adults have a specific phobia, making this the most common type of anxiety disorder.
People with phobias have emotional and physical reactions to the feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia include feelings of panic, dread or terror. Those who have phobias often experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and trembling. They may recognize that their fear goes beyond normal boundaries of reason, but their reactions are automatic and uncontrollable and they feel powerless in controlling or combating it.
While adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing the object or situation or even thinking about it, brings on severe anxiety. The distress can become so great that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.
Children and adolescents who suffer from specific phobias may not realize that their anxiety is excessive or unreasonable and may believe that their fearful responses are justified. They fully believe that the frightening object or event will actually harm them if they do not avoid it. Children will become extremely distressed when confronted with the object or situation, and the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing or clinging.
|Feeling uneasy or queasy when climbing a ladder||Refusing to attend a special event on the top floor of a hotel|
|Worry about takeoff in an airplane during a storm||Turning down a big promotion because it involves air travel|
|Feeling anxious about a neighbor’s large dog||Avoiding a neighbor for fear of seeing the dog|