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Specific Phobia

Are you afraid to fly? Do needles make you nervous? Do you avoid dental appointments, elevators or contact with spiders because you are scared? If so, you may have a phobia.

What is Phobia?

Phobias are intense, persistent fears about specific places, situations or things. Phobias can make it hard for you to go to places you would like to go or do things you would like to do. This is because people with specific phobias will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable and often terrifying feelings that occur when faced with their phobia. If you have a phobia, you are not alone.

There are 5 different categories of phobias:

  • Animal (e.g. fear of spiders, snakes, dogs)
  • Natural environment (e.g. fear of heights, fear of lightning and thunderstorms)
  • Blood-injection injury (e.g. fear of medical procedures including injections, fear of needles, fear of blood)
  • Situational (e.g. fear of confined spaces, fear of the dark)
  • Other (e.g. fear of vomiting, choking, illness)

Often individuals have multiple phobias.

How do People with a Phobia Typically React?

If you have a phobia, you may feel a wide range of intense emotions, from mild anxiety to very severe panic and terror when confronted with your phobia. In more severe cases, you may even feel that you are going mad, losing control, or are about to die when facing the feared object or situation. The fear can be expressed physically by an increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, feeling faint, nausea, feeling of choking, and/or increased blood pressure. Some people will even have a full-blown panic attack (click here to read more about panic attacks) when they are confronted with their phobia. Most of all, you will feel an overpowering urge to ‘escape’ from the very thing you fear.

Avoidance is the most common reaction. In the short term avoidance works because when you remove yourself from the feared situation you feel better and less afraid. But, avoidance tends to make your fear stronger in the long term, because it prevents you from learning new information (e.g. not all dogs are dangerous). Also, if you avoid something once, you are telling yourself that it is dangerous situation and should be avoided, so you are probably going to keep avoiding it every time. The fear can worsen very rapidly as a result. This is why phobias can be such a big problem. To overcome your phobia, you need to face your fears rather than avoid them.

My Anxiety Plan (MAPs)

MAP is designed to provide adults struggling with anxiety with practical strategies and tools to manage anxiety. To find out more, visit our My Anxiety Plan website.

Eric’s Story
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Karen’s Story
Karen has a dog phobia that dates back to when she was bitten as a child by a neighbour’s dog. Since that time, she has avoided anything to ...

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