A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme, irrational fear about a situation, living creature, place, or object.
When a person has a phobia, they will often shape their lives to avoid what they consider to be dangerous. The imagined threat is greater than any actual threat posed by the cause of terror.
Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders.
The person will experience intense distress when faced with the source of their phobia. This can prevent them from functioning normally and sometimes leads to panic attacks.
A phobia is an exaggerated and irrational fear.
The term ‘phobia’ is often used to refer to a fear of one particular trigger. However, there are three types of phobia recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). These include:
Specific phobias are known as simple phobias as they can be linked to an identifiable cause that may not frequently occur in the everyday life of an individual, such as snakes. These are therefore not likely to affect day-to-day living in a significant way.
Social anxiety and agoraphobia are known as complex phobias, as their triggers are less easily recognized. People with complex phobias can also find it harder to avoid triggers, such as leaving the house or being in a large crowd.
A phobia becomes diagnosable when a person begins organizing their lives around avoiding the cause of their fear. It is more severe than a normal fear reaction. People with a phobia have an overpowering need to avoid anything that triggers their anxiety.
A person with a phobia will experience the following symptoms.
- a sensation of uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the source of fear
- a feeling that the source of that fear must be avoided at all costs
- not being able to function properly when exposed to the trigger
- acknowledgment that the fear is irrational, unreasonable, and exaggerated, combined with an inability to control the feelings
- A person is likely to experience feelings of panic and intense anxiety when exposed to the object of their phobia.
- abnormal breathing
- accelerated heartbeat
- hot flushes or chills
- a choking sensation
- chest pains or tightness
- butterflies in the stomach
- pins and needles
- dry mouth
- confusion and disorientation
A feeling of anxiety can be produced simply by thinking about the object of the phobia. In younger children, parents may observe that they cry, become very clingy, or attempt to hide behind the legs of a parent or an object. They may also throw tantrums to show their distress.