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Anxiety Disorders

Specific Phobia

Specific phobia is the unfounded fear of certain situations and objects. So if you have a fear of spiders, heights, or the elderly, these would all fall under the classification of a specific phobia. Specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The individual will go out of their way to avoid the situation or objects, so much so that it will end up affecting their daily lives. Sometimes just the thought of the situation or object can bring about extreme discomfort. There are basically two types of specific phobia: one that occurs with panic attacks and the other without. Specific phobia accompanied with panic attacks is considered to be more problematic and will generally require more treatment to be helped.


All of the different phobias have fallen under categorization. There is the blood/injury/injection type which is when the individual is afraid of the sight or thought of blood, or of being injured, or having to take a needle. Generally these individuals are found in the hospital, as it can be a cause of great duress. Another type of specific phobia is the animal type which, of course, is the fear of any animal from sharks to squirrels. There is also a situational type. This has to do solely with situations like being in the mall for example. And, again, it’s not the fear of the mall, it’s the fear of the sort of social situations that can occur while in the mall. Another specific phobia is the natural environment one which means generally just being outside, in the open air where any situation or object can find you. The rest fall under the “other” category.

Signs include avoidance of object or situation, excessive fear of object or situation, anticipatory anxiety (experience anxiety before even coming into contact with the situation or object) and panic attack-type symptoms, such as: nausea, pounding heart, numbness, dizziness, diarrhea, choking feeling and sweating.


The cause of specific phobia is as varied as the phobias themselves. Generally, it has to do with bad experiences in the past with the specific situations or objects. It is mainly biological and psychological factors that are believed to help cause specific phobia. There has been some evidence that they run in families.


Cognitive behavioral therapies are used in the treatment of specific phobia. It is an approach that highlights maladaptive behaviors, dysfunctional emotions and cognitive processes and contents through a variety of systematic procedures.

One-session treatment is another type of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses cognitive challenges, exposure, reinforcement and participant modeling as some of the steps to reach its goal. Exposure therapy has been one of the most popular therapies used, where the individual is placed in the situations or with the object with which they have a phobia.

As far as medications go, the only one that has shown any sort of benefits is D-cycloserine. This drug is actually an antibiotic used for tuberculosis. It is currently being used in trial studies for the treatment of specific phobia. It works by effecting the area of the brain called the amygdala. This is where fear comes from.


If you have a specific phobia, don’t worry, the outlook is pretty good, as long as you adhere to your treatment. If you don’t follow your treatment procedure 100% there is a risk of becoming sick again. Children with specific phobia generally tend to lose their phobias when they become adults. If an individual gets a specific phobia in adulthood, it is more likely to stay and needs to be treated.


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