Sunday, May 1, 2011


Almost everyone has an irrational fear or two. Some get nervous at the thought of needles. Others shriek at the sight of a mouse. Still others get woozy when they look down from tall buildings. For most people, these fears are minor. But for some, these fears are so severe that they cause tremendous anxiety and interfere with normal day-to-day life.

When fears are irrational and disabling, they are called phobias. If you’re living in fear because of your phobia, take hope. You can overcome phobias and fears with the right treatment and self-help strategies. So don’t wait to seek help.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles. However, we can develop phobias of virtually anything. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.

If you have a phobia, you probably realize that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t control your feelings. Just thinking about the thing you fear may make you anxious. And when you’re actually exposed to your phobia, the terror is automatic and overwhelming.

The experience is so nerve-wracking that you may go to great lengths to avoid it – inconveniencing yourself or even changing your lifestyle. If you have claustrophobia, for example, you might turn down a lucrative job offer if you have to ride the elevator to get to the office. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive an extra twenty miles in order to avoid a tall bridge.

Common types of phobias and fears

There are four general types of common phobias and fears:

  • Animal phobias. Animal phobias are fears caused by an animal or insect. Examples include fear of snakes, fear of spiders, fear of rodents, and fear of dogs.
  • Natural environment phobias. Natural environment phobias are fears cued by objects found in nature. Examples include fear of heights, fear of storms, fear of water, and fear of the dark.
  • Situational phobias. Situational phobias are fears triggered by a specific situation. Examples include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of elevators, fear of flying, fear of dentists, fear of driving, fear of tunnels, and fear of bridges.
  • Blood-Injection-Injury phobia. Blood-injection-injury phobia involves fear of blood, fear or injury, or a fear of shots or another medical procedure.