What Is Phobia?
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Phobia - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Oct 13, 2022 and last reviewed on Sep 11, 2023   -  5 min read


A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. Read the article to know more about phobia.


A phobia is an uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear of an object, person, animal, situation, or activity. It is a type of anxiety disorder. They affect both men and women equally. A person with phobia avoids the things that trigger fear. Not all phobias need treatment, and if it affects the quality of life, several therapies are available for treatment.

Fear vs. Phobia

We have fears about particular situations or objects which is normal. A fear becomes a phobia if:

  • The fear is out of proportion to the danger.

  • It lasts more than six months.

  • It has an impact on day-to-day life.

What Causes Phobia?

Phobia does not have a single cause. Genetic and environmental factors can cause phobias. Many phobias develop as a result of having a negative experience or having a panic attack related to an object or situation. Distressing events, exposure to confined spaces, extreme heights, and animal or insect bites can cause phobias. Substance abuse and depression are also associated with phobias.

What Are the Types of Phobia?

American psychiatric association recognizes three types of phobia:

Specific Phobia: They are known as simple phobias. They are phobias about a specific object or situation. They are triggered by factors that may not frequently occur in day-to-day life. The triggers are not typically harmful. They often develop in childhood or adolescence and get less severe as they age.

The most common specific phobias include:

Social Phobia: This is a fear of social humiliation or being left alone or judged by others in a social situation. People with social phobia fear large social gatherings, meeting new people, eating or drinking in a gathering, starting a conversation, etc.

Social phobia can hugely affect day to day life, including:

  • Affect self-confidence.

  • Making it very difficult to maintain relationships.

  • Make you feel lonely.

  • Interfere with daily work.

Agoraphobia: This is a fear of situations from which the person can not escape suddenly. People with agoraphobia have an increased risk of panic disorder.

Social and agoraphobia are complex phobias. They usually develop during adulthood. Sometimes, even thinking about the source of phobia can make a person feel anxious. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Phobia?

Phobias can be different for everyone. Symptoms of phobia include:

  • Nausea.

  • Sweating.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Palpitations.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Chest pain.

  • Choking sensation

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness.

  • Trembling.

  • Stomach upset.

  • Psychological symptoms like fear of dying and feeling detached from the body.

Are Phobias Diagnosed Through Any Tests?

Phobias are not usually diagnosed through any tests or examinations. Most people with phobias are fully aware of the problem.

How Can We Treat Phobias?

Phobias are highly treatable. Speaking to a psychologist or psychiatrist is the best way to treat phobias. Avoiding the source of fear helps them control the symptoms. The doctor recommends behavioral therapy or medications, or a combination of both.

Behavioral Therapy:

This includes:

  • Desensitization Therapy: This therapy aims at gradually exposing to the cause of phobia over a period of time.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: It is a type of counseling that changes the way you behave and think. This therapy helps in understanding and reacting to the source of the phobia. This can help people to control their thoughts and emotions.

Medications: The following medications are also effective for the treatment of phobias. But generally, they are not prescribed often because of their side effects.

  • Beta-Blockers: These medications can reduce the signs of anxiety associated with the phobia, such as increased heart rate, shaking, and palpitations. Some side effects seen include stomach upset, fatigue, and cold fingers. They do not reduce the psychiatric symptoms. They are not addictive.

  • Antidepressants: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are usually prescribed for people with phobias. They affect serotonin levels and can improve mood. This may initially cause nausea, headache, and sleeping problems. Tricyclic antidepressants such as Clomipramine are also used to treat phobias. Side effects include sleepiness, blurred vision, and irregular heartbeat.

  • Tranquilizers: Benzodiazepines are the tranquilizers often prescribed. Diazepam is the most commonly given medication, and it can be addictive sometimes. They should be taken in a low dose for a short period of time.

Self-Care Tips for Phobias:

  • Talk to Someone You Trust: Talking to someone about the phobia or writing it down can sometimes provide relief.

  • Learn to Control: Learn to control your anxiety by trying relaxation techniques. Many techniques are available like meditation, breathing control, stretching, etc. During a panic attack, try focusing on breathing or looking at a spot.

  • Look For Support: Talk with people who have a similar type of phobia, and they may suggest some coping methods. Read books or take help online and improve your state of mind about phobia.

What Are the Complications?

  • Isolation: Avoiding places and things that trigger phobia can cause academic, professional, and relationship problems. Children with phobias are at risk of loneliness.

  • Mood Disorders: Many people with phobias have depression and other anxiety disorders.

  • Substance Abuse: Living with a phobia may lead to abuse of alcohol or drugs.

  • Suicide: Some individuals are at risk of suicide.


Phobias can be stressful. Overcoming phobias can be difficult, but with the proper treatment, you can overcome the fears and live a peaceful life. Do not be shy to take help from others if you have a phobia.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Most Known Phobia?

Arachnophobia, the fear of arachnids or spiders, is considered the most well-known phobia. It affects around one in four men and one in three women.


What Is the Rarest Phobia?

Some of the rarest phobias are:
- Arithmophobia- fear of numbers.
- Cacophobia- fear of ugliness.
- Bibliophobia- fear of books.
- Chirophobia- fear of hands.
- Deipnophobia- fear of dining with other people.
- Koinoniphobia- fear of rooms.
- Linonophobia- fear of strings.


How Do Phobias Start?

Most phobias start due to panic attacks or bad experiences related to a specific situation or object. At times even hearing or seeing a bad experience may trigger the phobia. There can even be a connection between a specific phobia and the anxiety or phobia of one’s parents.


What Is the Phobia of Forgetting Things Called?

The fear of forgetting something or someone and the fear of being forgotten is called Athazagoraphobia. People with this condition experience stress, panic, and anxiety at the thought of being forgotten. The treatment options for this condition include medication, mindfulness techniques, and behavioral therapy.


Do Phobias Get Worse With Age?

According to studies, animal phobias are more common and intense in younger than older individuals. On the other hand, inanimate phobias and fear were found to be more intense in older individuals when compared to younger ones.


Is Phobia a Mental Illness?

Phobias are considered to be a type of anxiety disorder. The affected will have an overwhelming need to avoid the source of anxiety. Coming in contact with the source and even thinking of it make one panic and anxious.


What Is the Phobia of New Things?

An abnormal and persistent fear of anything new is referred to as neophobia. Those with food neophobia will tend to reject or be reluctant to new, unfamiliar foods.


Can Phobias Be Harmful?

Phobias may limit one’s daily activities and result in severe depression and anxiety. These are mostly seen with complex phobias like social phobia and agoraphobia. Those affected by phobias usually try to avoid the particular object, situation, place, or feeling that results in fear.


What Phobias Can You Be Born With?

All humans are born with basically two innate fears. These include fear of loud noises and fear of falling. The rest of the fears are learned during one person’s lifetime.


Can Phobias Go Away?

Most of the phobias can be treated successfully and cured. Simple phobias can be treated by self-exposure therapy or desensitization techniques. In this technique, the patient is slowly exposed to a particular situation, animal, object, or place that results in fear.


Are Phobias Fake?

Phobias are irrational debilitating, overwhelming fear of a place, situation, animal, feeling, or object. But it is an actual medical condition. The affected will have an unrealistic fear of the object, animal, place, or situation, which is more pronounced than fears.


Can You Live a Normal Life With a Phobia?

Some may overcome their phobia later in life. Some phobias like ophiophobia (fear of snakes) do not affect one’s daily life. But some phobias, like fear of open spaces (agoraphobia), may significantly affect one’s daily life.


How to Overcome a Phobia?

Here are some ways in which one can overcome their fears:
- Take time out to physically calm oneself.
- Breathe slowly and deeply to cope with the panic.
- Chase the fear, and imagine the possible adverse outcomes. The more one does this. The more fear starts fading.
- Be brave to face one’s fears.
- Visualize a calm and happy place.
- Share one’s fear with others.
- Reward oneself sometimes, and do the basic things needed to keep oneself healthy.


Which Person Has No Fear?

True fearlessness is seen as associated with an uncommon disease condition called Urbach-Wiethe. It is an uncommon genetic disorder characterized by basal ganglia calcification, voice hoarseness, skin scarring, and other neurological symptoms. The amygdala (the part involved in fear response) is calculated in this condition.

Last reviewed at:
11 Sep 2023  -  5 min read




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