Specific phobia
A specific phobia
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational...

is a generic term for any kind of anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorder is a blanket term covering several different forms of abnormal and pathological fear and anxiety. Conditions now considered anxiety disorders only came under the aegis of psychiatry at the end of the 19th century. Gelder, Mayou & Geddes explains that anxiety disorders are...

 that amounts to an unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific objects or situations. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations and, in severe cases, any mention or depiction of them.

The fear or anxiety may be triggered both by the presence and the anticipation of the specific object or situation. A person who encounters that of which they are phobic will often show signs of fear or express discomfort. In some cases it can result in a panic attack
Panic attack
Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset and of relatively brief duration. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, reach a peak within 10 minutes, and subside over the next several hours...

. In most cases of adults, this kind of phobia is consciously recognized by the person; still, anxiety and avoidance are difficult to control and may significantly impair person's functioning and even physical health.


Specific phobias have a one-year prevalence
In epidemiology, the prevalence of a health-related state in a statistical population is defined as the total number of cases of the risk factor in the population at a given time, or the total number of cases in the population, divided by the number of individuals in the population...

 of 4.4% (in the USA). The usual age of onset is childhood to adolescence. Women are twice as likely to suffer from specific phobias as men.

Categories of specific phobias

According to the fourth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders...

 phobias can be classified under the following general categories:
  • Animal type
For example the fear of dogs, cats, rats and/or mice, pigs, cows, birds, spiders and the fear of snakes
  • Natural environment type
Like the fear of heights (acrophobia
Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort that share both similar etiology and options for treatment.Most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights, especially if there is little...

), the fear of lightning and thunderstorms (astraphobia
Astraphobia, also known as astrapophobia, brontophobia, keraunophobia, or tonitrophobia, is an abnormal fear of thunder and lightning, a type of specific phobia. It is a treatable phobia that both humans and animals can develop. The term astraphobia derives from the Greek words ἀστραπή and φόβος...

), and the fear of aging (gerascophobia
Gerascophobia is an abnormal or persistent fear of growing old or ageing. The term comes from the Greek "geras" and "phobos" ....

  • Situational type
Like the fear of small confined spaces (claustrophobia
Claustrophobia is the fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms...

) and being "afraid of the dark," (nyctophobia
Nyctophobia is a phobia characterized by a severe fear of the darkness. It is triggered by the brain’s disfigured perception of what would or could happen when in a dark environment....

  • Blood/injection/injury type
Like the fear of medical procedures including needles and injections (Trypanophobia
Trypanophobia is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is occasionally referred to as aichmophobia, belonephobia,...

  • Other
Like the fear of the number 13
13 (number)
13 is the natural number after 12 and before 14. It is the smallest number with eight letters in its name spelled out in English. It is also the first of the teens – the numbers 13 through 19 – the ages of teenagers....

Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number ; it is a superstition and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia.The term was first used by Isador Coriat in Abnormal...

), and the fear of clowns (coulrophobia
Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns. The term is of recent origin, probably dating from the 1980s, and according to one analyst, "has been coined more on the Internet than in printed form because it does not appear in any previously published, psychiatric, unabridged, or abridged dictionary," however...


External links

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