A phobia is a persistent fear of a specific object or situation, which is out of proportion or excessive. This fear often causes individuals to avoid situations or suffer through them, as the situation or object will produce a high level of distress. Specific phobias are extremely common amongst the general population, although often people will not seek treatment at all, or not for many years.
There are four sub-types of phobias:
- Animal (e.g. dogs, spiders, snakes)
- Situational (e.g. hospitals, public toilets, dentists)
- Blood / injection / injury
- Natural environment (e.g. water, storms, heights)
Specific phobias can be caused by a distressing experience in the past which was either personally experienced or witnessed (e.g., being bitten by a dog in the case of someone with a dog phobia). Often phobias develop in childhood and persist into adult life, but can develop at any stage in an individual’s life. Often individuals will only seek treatment for a phobia when the impact on their daily functioning becomes significant (e.g., avoiding going out alone for fear of being attacked by a dog).