What Is Phobia And Related Disorders

A phobia can be defined as a fear which is excessive or irrational towards objects or situations. Quite often, people feel an overwhelming sense of danger or fear that they will be harmed. Phobias are completely different from everyday stress or worries. Phobias affect people so badly that they are hampered in carrying out normal activities.

Categories of Phobias:

Phobias cause a lot of stress in people when they are in a particular situation, close to some object or even participating in activities. People are so afraid that they avoid putting themselves in these situations. Here are a few distinct categories of phobias:

  • Natural environment – fear of lightning/thunder or other phenomena
  • Animals /Insects/Reptiles/Birds – fear of dogs, spiders or ducks to name a few
  • Medical phobias: Fear of procedures or getting shots
  • Situations: Being in closed spaces, elevators or even heights
  • Other phobias: Fear of loud noises, people in costumes, choking etc.
  • Food Phobias: Fear of eating things like crabs etc. and having a bad reaction

According to research, it seems that women are more likely to have phobias. People with phobias also have to deal with other issues like depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

What Causes Phobia?

There is no known cause of phobia. People may get phobic because they might have experienced some fearful events like:

  • being bitten by a dog
  • having panic attacks in certain situations
  • witnessing a terrible event happening to another person
  • being close to someone who has a phobia or experiencing a panic attack
  • leaning about terrible events

Phobias usually manifest in people when they are fairly young. Children tend to have more phobias relating to the environment and animals. Adults are more likely to have situational phobias.


One major symptom of a phobia is the level of fear – phobic people are more afraid than normal people around things or situations that they fear. Their stress levels are very high – adults will freeze or have panic attacks, while children may become clingy, cry, or throw tantrums to get away from the situation. Adults are able to cope with their phobias better than children. Adults fear result in:

  • loss of control
  • panicking
  • feeling the physical effects of stress and fear like rapid heartbeat, breathlessness and nausea
  • fainting or dizzy spells

How To Get a Diagnosis:

The best way to find out if one has a phobia is to meet a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist. They will ask a number of questions about the fears, symptoms and the duration of the condition. A comprehensive medical history is part of the process – the doctor will also ask about the different medications a patient may be on. To get an accurate phobia diagnosis, a patient must exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Patient is more afraid of situations than other people with regard to situations or objects
  • High stress levels or panic attacks when they are in a situation or its vicinity
  • Avoidance of activities or objects
  • Difficulty in carrying out normal activities on a daily basis due to fear
  • If one’s age is under 18 and the symptoms have persisted 6 months or more.
  • Symptoms are outside the parameters of panic attacks/disorders

Treatment Methods:

Phobias are treatable and most often with behavior conditioning. A doctor will determine whether medication is needed as well. Medicines and behavior modification work well in ensuring that people get over their phobias and lead a normal and active life.