Specific Phobia involves significant fear that is excessive or unreasonable in the presence of a specific object or situation or in anticipation of facing that object or situation. Some phobic reactions can be so severe that they lead to a Panic Attack. Although someone can develop a fear of almost anything most phobias fall into four main categories:
• Animal Type (e.g., dogs, insects),
• Natural Environment Type (e.g., heights, storms, water),
• Blood-Injection-Injury Type (e.g., needles, dentists office, surgery),
• Situational Type (e.g., airplanes, elevators, enclosed places),
As well, there is a fifth category for those phobic fears that do not fit into the other four categories:
• Other Type (e.g., fear of choking, vomiting, contracting an illness, loud sounds, costumed characters)
Many people fear and avoid certain objects, situations, animals, or insects (e.g., mice, spiders, or snakes), but for it to be considered a psychological disorder the fear and avoidance must interfere with your normal routine (e.g., pushing past spider webs to get to the washing machine), your occupation (e.g., working in a tall building), or social activities (e.g., going to the "Arachnid Club" with friends).
In short, specific fears are only a problem if you must confront the feared object in everyday life. It would certainly be prudent for someone in a career involving a great deal of travel to seek treatment as soon as possible for a fear of flying. Similarly, someone who is unable to take a higher-paying job in a downtown high-rise because of fear of heights has a fear that is interfering with daily life.
Fear of certain objects or situations following a traumatic event could represent a Specific Phobia due to an association between fear and the object or situation. However, a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be warranted depending on the accompanying symptoms. If the fear is limited to social situations then it may be better accounted for by Social Phobia.
The treatment for specific phobia focuses on changing the fearful thoughts a person experiences in the presence of the phobic object or situation and and helping the person reduce behavioral avoidance. Cognitive behavior therapy is carried out in a systematic fashion in order to have the person be in the presence of the feared object or situation without being overwhelmed.