A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. Although it can be realistic to be anxious in some circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.
People with a phobia:
- May have an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
- Take active steps to avoid the feared object or situation
- Experience immediate, intense anxiety upon meeting the feared object or situation
- Endure unavoidable objects and conditions with extreme anxiety
There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders.
Specific Phobias (sometimes called simple phobias)
As the name suggests, people who have a specific phobia have an intense fear of or feel severe anxiety about particular types of objects or situations. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of:
- Particular animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes
- Receiving injections
Separation anxiety disorder
Though many consider separation anxiety a children’s condition, adults often suffer from it as well. People who have separation anxiety disorder have fears about being parted from people to whom they are attached. They often worry that some sort of harm or something untoward will happen to their attachment figures while they are separated. This fear leads them to avoid being separated from their attachment figures and to avoid being alone. People with separation anxiety may have nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or experience physical symptoms with anticipated separation or when they occur.
Social anxiety disorder (previously called social phobia)
People with social anxiety disorder have a general intense fear of or anxiety toward social or performance situations. They worry that actions or behaviors associated with their anxiety will be negatively evaluated by others, leading them to feel embarrassed. This worry often causes people with social anxiety to avoid social situations. Social anxiety disorder can manifest in a range of conditions, such as within the workplace or the school environment.
People with agoraphobia have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations:
- Using public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in enclosed spaces
- Standing in line or being in a crowd
- Being outside of the home alone
People with agoraphobia often avoid these situations, in part, because they think being able to leave might be difficult or impossible in the event; they have panic-like reactions or other embarrassing symptoms. In the most severe form of agoraphobia, an individual can become housebound.