Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is the avoidance and fear of a particular situation or  object. This fear is severe enough to interfere with normal everyday routines  whilst causing considerable distress. Exposing oneself directly to the specific  fear will sometimes result in a panic reaction.

Here are some common specific phobias:

  • Acrophobia – this is a fear of heights, such as high buildings, bridges and  even being on top of a mountain
  • Airplane phobia – a very common fear usually that the plane is going to fall  from the sky or more recently that it will be hijacked or bombed by terrorists.  Approx 10 percent of the worlds population refuse to fly at all while others  have extreme anxiety and panic when flying
  • Dentist phobia – also extends to doctor or hospital phobia, usually  manifests as fear of painful procedure, injections etc
  • Animal phobia – usually extreme fear of spiders, snakes, rats etc with some  people having a severe fear of being anywhere near dogs which results in  avoiding open spaces, parks and woodland
  • Blood phobia – a unique fear where the sufferer may actually faint at the  sight of blood
  • Lift phobia – here the sufferer fears the lift cables will snap or the lift  will get stuck between floors
  • Illness phobia – a fear of heart attack, cancer or other life threatening  illness
  • Thunder or lightening phobia – this fear almost always presents itself in  childhood, only when it persists into adult life is it considered a specific  phobia


Specific phobias affect approximately 10 out of every 100 people but only a  very small percentage actually seek help for this condition. The phobia may  begin in childhood or later in life perhaps following a traumatic event such as  an accident, illness, natural disaster or simply a bad experience at the  dentist’s office.

Treatment methods include:

  • Cognitive therapy – where fearful thoughts are challenged and then replaced  with a more realistic thought pattern
  • Relaxation therapy – this usually involves abdominal breathing techniques  and deep muscle relaxation, the techniques can be used when facing a specific  phobia or prior to the experience when you may have anticipatory anxiety or  panic
  • Exposure therapy – this would involve gradually facing up to the fear  through a series of steps


In summing up, a specific phobia could be classed as a benign disorder  perhaps starting in childhood and continuing through adult life, usually  diminishing with time but occasionally increasing in severity.

© Andrew Tudor Jones