A phobia (from the Greek:Phóbos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”) is, when used in the context of clinical psychology, 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. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with markeddistress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.[1]

Finally, a point warranting clarification is that the term phobia is an encompassing term and when discussed is usually done in terms of specific phobias andsocial phobias. Specific phobias are nouns such as arachnophobia or acrophobia which, as the name implies, are specific, and social phobia are phobias within social situations such as public speaking and crowded areas.

Clinical phobias

Psychologists and psychiatrists classify most phobias into three categories[3][4] and, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), such phobias are considered to be sub-types of anxiety disorder. The three categories are:

1. Social phobia: fears other people or social situations such as performance anxiety or fears of embarrassment by scrutiny of others, such as eating in public. Overcoming social phobia is often very difficult without the help of therapy or support groups. Social phobia may be further subdivided into

2. Specific phobias: fear of a single specific panic trigger such as spiders, snakes, dogs, water, heights, flying, catching a specific illness, etc. Many people have these fears but to a lesser degree than those who suffer from specific phobias. People with the phobias specifically avoid the entity they fear.

3. Agoraphobia: a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar ‘safe’ area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow. It may also be caused by various specific phobias such as fear of open spaces, social embarrassment (social agoraphobia), fear of contamination (fear of germs, possibly complicated byobsessive-compulsive disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) related to a trauma that occurred out of doors.

Phobias vary in severity among individuals. Some individuals can simply avoid the subject of their fear and suffer relatively mild anxiety over that fear. Others suffer full-fledged panic attacks with all the associated disabling symptoms. Most individuals understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but they are powerless to override their initial panic reaction.

Specific phobias

As briefly mentioned above, a specific phobia is a marked and persistent fear of an object or situation which brings about an excessive or unreasonable fear when in the presence of, or anticipating, a specific object; furthermore, the specific phobias may also include concerns with losing control, panicking, and fainting which is the direct result of an encounter with the phobia.[6] The important distinction from social phobias are specific phobias are defined in regards to objects or situations whereas social phobias emphasizes more on social fear and the evaluations that might accompany them.

Social phobia

The key difference between specific phobias and social phobias is social phobias include fear of public situations and scrutiny which leads to embarrassment or humiliation in the diagnostic criteria. In social phobias, there is also a generalized category which is included as a specifier below.

  1. ^ Bourne, Edmund J. (2011). The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook 5th ed.. New Harbinger Publications. pp. 50–51. ISBN572244135.
  2. ^Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.. Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Association. 1994. p. 406. ISBN0-89042-062-9.
  3. ^“AllPsych Journal | Phobias: Causes and Treatments”. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
  4. ^“NIMH – The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America”. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
  5. ^ Crozier, W. Ray; Alden, Lynn E. International Handbook of Social Anxiety: Concepts, Research, and Interventions Relating to the Self and Shyness, p. 12. New York John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (UK), 2001. ISBN 0-471-49129-2.
  6. ^Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.. Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Association. 1994. p. 405. ISBN0-89042-062-9.