Phobias are distressing and common disorders in which someone has a powerful fear of a situation or object. Common phobias
include fears of animals, birds, heights, crowds or social events. People with a phobia may acknowledge that their fear is out of
proportion to the true danger or threat, but they cannot control or explain it.
If someone does not take steps to overcome a phobia, it can last for years and be very disabling. It can cause considerable
disruption to their daily lives - and those of their families.
Most people have no symptoms until they are faced with their feared situation or object. When they are confronted by this, they
have severe symptoms of anxiety. These can be so unpleasant that the person takes elaborate steps to avoid coming into
contact with their feared object. Symptoms of the anxiety include:
Ð fast breathing (hyperventilation)
Ð being aware of a fast heart beat (palpitations)
Ð choking sensations
Ð flushes, sweating and feeling faint
In severe cases, these symptoms can occur even when the person is thinking about being close to the feared object or simply
seeing a picture of it.
We do not know what causes phobias. Psychologists who have studied phobias have suggested that they develop from an
unpleasant experience in childhood involving the feared object. The unpleasant situation is stored in the personÕs memory,
bringing on the fear again when the memory is triggered. For some people, the onset of a phobia may be triggered by a stressful
life event, such as bereavement.
Types of phobias
These are fears of specific situations such as being close to animals or birds, fear of heights, lifts or other closed spaces
(claustrophobia), needles, flying or the sight of blood. These phobias are more common in women, and they often begin in
childhood, in some cases after an associated traumatic experience.
People who suffer from these phobias rarely have any other psychiatric