Specific phobia is a persistent, irrational fear of particular objects or situations. Specific phobias are the most common of the anxiety disorders, affecting approximately 7.0% of women and 4.3% of men during any six-month period.
Most specific phobias, such as the fear of large animals, the dark, or strangers, begin in childhood. Many of these phobias cease as people get older. Some phobias, such as the fear of rodents, insects, storms, water, heights, flying, or enclosed spaces, typically develop later in life. Phobias of a traumatic origin can occur at any time during a person's life.
Although people with specific phobia can often cope by avoiding the feared object or situation, specific phobia is cured by exposure therapy. Antianxiety drugs give individuals temporary control over a phobia, but do not cure it. Insight-oriented psychotherapy may help to identify the conflict that underlies a specific phobia.
Specific phobia develops as people use defense mechanisms to deal with a situation that causes them stress, fear, and anxiety. Oftentimes, a phobia has no explanation. Specific phobias are occasionally traced to a traumatic experience, or may develop from a general tendency to be anxious.
Specific phobia usually starts in childhood when exposure to a feared object or situation provides an immediate anxiety response.
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