Specific Phobia

Specific Phobia is a disorder characterized by intense fear or anxiety in the presence of a particular situation or object (phobic stimulus). The four major types are: animals, environments, medical procedures, and situations (e.g. - elevators, planes, enclosed spaces). Many individuals fear objects or situations from more than one category or phobic stimulus.

Specific phobia is an extremely common mental disorder with a lifetime prevalence of 14%. It is common for individuals to have multiple specific phobias. The average individual with specific phobia fears three objects or situations, and approximately 75% of individuals with specific phobia fear more than one situation or object.

The individual's sociocultural context should also be taken into account. For example, fears of the dark may be reasonable in a context of ongoing violence, and fear of insects may be more disproportionate in settings where insects are consumed in the diet.

Criterion A

Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g. - flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).

In children, the fear or anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.
Criterion B

The phobic object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear or anxiety.

Criterion C

The phobic object or situation is actively avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.

Criterion D

The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object, or situation and to the sociocultural context.

Criterion E

The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.

Criterion F

The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Criterion G

The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder, including:


Specify based on the phobia:

  • Animal (e.g., spiders, insects, dogs).
  • Natural environment (e.g., heights, storms, water).
  • Blood-injection-injury (e.g., needles, invasive medical procedures).
  • Situational (e.g., airplanes, elevators, enclosed places).
  • Other (e.g., situations that may lead to choking or vomiting: in children, e.g., loud sounds or costumed characters).

CBT is the first line treatment for specific phobias.

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