About Phobias and Fear
What Is a Specific Phobia?
A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an excessive or unreasonable anxiety or fear surrounding specific situations, people, animals, or things.
Anxiety may be triggered by being around the feared thing, by anticipating being around the feared thing. When a person with a specific phobia comes into contact with the thing they fear, they can often show visible signs of distress. Sometimes when confronted with their fear, or when anticipating it, they can have a panic attack. Many people with specific phobias go to great lengths to avoid what they fear, which can greatly disrupt their daily life.
An example of a person with emetophobia, or fear of vomiting:
Maria has only vomited once in her life, as a little girl, yet she is terrified of vomiting. Her fear seems to have gotten worse since she arrived at college. She's not sure exactly how her fear of vomit developed, but she knows that she is afraid of the physical sensation of vomiting, and wants to avoid doing it at all costs.
Maria avoids many things due to her fear of vomiting. She does not drink alcohol due to the fear of vomiting, nor does she attend parties where alcohol may be present. She also avoids people who are sick, due to the fear that they may vomit, or make her sick. She also avoids eating foods that she is afraid may make her vomit. After eating, she often finds herself checking to see whether or not she is nauseous. Maria has found that this fear greatly impedes her life at college, as it makes it hard for her to eat, drink, and socialize normally with her classmates.
Types of Specific Phobias
There are four main categories of specific phobias:
1. Animal Type - Common Examples include
- Ailurophobia - fear of cats
- Cynophobia - fear of dogs
- Entomophobia - fear of insects
- Arachnophobia - fear of spiders
- Apiphobia - fear of bees
2. Natural Environment Type
- Acrophobia - fear of heights
- Astraphobia - fear of thunderstorms/lightening
- Gerascophobia - fear of aging
3. Situational Type
- Claustrophobia - fear of small, enclosed spaces
- Nyctophobia - fear of the dark
- Emetophobia - fear of vomiting
4. Blood/Injection/Injury Type
- Trypanophobia - fear of medical procedures involving needles