About Phobias & Related Problems
A phobia is an intense fear of something, accompanied by high anxiety and an urge to escape the situation. Although they vary in terms of severity and complexity, most experts view phobias as relatively simple problems and they tend to respond particularly well to short-term psychological therapies. There are hundreds of different Greek names for different types of phobia. However, researchers tend to make broader distinctions between a handful of different types of problem. Most phobias can be divided into three main categories, which can in turn be broken down further into more specific subtypes.
1. Specific Phobias
Specific phobias (or “simple” phobias) are often (but not always) about commonly-feared things. Although mild (“subphobic”) fears are extremely common full-blown clinical phobias are less frequently diagnosed, because they need to be severe enough to interfere with your ability to function properly in life. Research shows that 12.5% of people have had a diagnosable specific phobia at some point in their lifetime (NCS-R). Research has shown that on average 70-85% of people are signifcantly improved after behaviour therapy for specific phobias, which is one of the highest success rates found for any type of problem in the field of psychological therapy (Roth & Fonagy, 2005, p. 155).
Specific phobias are usually divided into five subtypes:
i) Situational type, e.g., fear of flying in planes, being in an enclosed space, etc.
ii) Natural environment type, e.g., fear of thunder, heights, being underwater, etc.
iii) Blood-injection-injury type, e.g., fear of needles, blood, operations, etc. This is the only type of phobia that is commonly associated with actual fainting, although the fear of fainting sometimes occurs in other phobias.
iv) Animal type, e.g., fear of dogs, cats, snakes, spiders, etc.
v) Other type, any other phobia, e.g., fear of choking, vomiting, loud noises, etc.
2. Social Phobia
Social phobia is a fear of being negatively evaluated by others in interpersonal situations, which is either limited to specific types of situation or quite generalised. See our article on social phobia.
3. Agoraphobia & Panic Attacks
Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape to safety would be difficult or embarrassing, and is often associated with panic attacks. See our article on agoraphobia and panic attacks.