An individual who suffers from a specific phobia becomes very fearful or anxious about a specific object or situation. Specific phobias often include,
- Animals: Dogs, insects, spiders.
- Natural Environments: Storms, heights, water.
- Blood and Injuries: Injections, invasive medical procedures.
- Specific Situations: Airplanes, elevators, enclosed places.
- Other: This category can be a large variety of stimuli or situations that may lead to choking, vomiting, loud sounds, or costumed characters.
Diagnosis of Specific Phobia
Key features considered in the diagnosis of a specific phobia include,
- Almost always experience immediate fear or anxiety.
- Will actively avoid the situation/stimuli. If unable to avoid, then they will endure it with intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear/anxiety experienced is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation.
- The fear and avoidance is always present and lasts for 6 months or more.
- The fear interferes with the normal flow of a person’s life including work, school, social, and/or occupation.
- Finally, the fear is not better explained by having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), separation anxiety, efforts to avoid panic-like symptoms related to agoraphobia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Social Anxiety Disorder.
A specific phobia can cause an increase in physiological arousal. Furthermore, individuals with blood injection phobia often demonstrate a vasovagal fainting or near fainting response.
Specific phobia sometimes develops following a traumatic event, such as when someone is bitten by a dog or gets stuck in an elevator. Furthermore, they usually develop in early childhood. The majority of cases develop prior to age 10 and the median age of onset is between 7 and 11 years old. Specific phobias can develop at any age, though.
Young children may express their fear by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging because they do not generally understand the concept of avoidance. Adults may express their fear through similar behaviors or they may actively avoid the specific phobia.
Finally, it is not uncommon to have more than one specific phobia at a time.