Specific Phobias Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    Specific phobia is marked by a persistent fear of a discrete object or situation Table 01. A person with specific phobia will experience symptoms of anxiety, including dizziness, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath.

    Adolescents and adults with specific phobia can most likely recognize that their fear is excessive or unreasonable; however, children cannot.

    Table 1.  Symptoms of Specific Phobia

    Dizziness and feeling faint
    Palpitations, abnormally rapid heartbeat
    Sweating, trembling, and nausea
    Shortness of breath
    Avoidance of the feared object or situation

    The level of anxiety or fear usually varies according to the proximity of the feared object or situation and the degree to which escape from the source of fear is possible. People who have specific phobias will experience fear that intensifies as the feared object approaches, and decreases as the feared object moves away from them. Those who recognize that certain objects or situations cause them fear and anxiety tend to avoid those triggers.

    People who have a blood-injection injury type-phobia may experience a fainting response. Approximately 75% of patients with blood-injection injury type specific phobia will faint when confronted with their fear. Patients who experience the fainting response have accelerated heart rates followed by a deceleration in heart rate and a drop in blood pressure.

    There are several common subtypes of specific phobia Table 02.

    Table 2.  Subtypes of Specific Phobia

    Subtype Characteristics
    Animal Fear of animals; childhood onset
    Natural environment Fear of storms, heights, or water; usually onset later in life
    Blood-injection injury Fear of invasive medical procedures, blood, or injections; highly familial
    Situational Fear of public transportation, tunnels, bridges, elevators, flying, driving, or enclosed spaces; peaks in childhood and in the mid-twenties
    Other Fear of other objects or situations such as choking, vomiting, contracting an illness, loud sounds, or costumed characters (children)
  • Risk Factors

    Children and young people in their mid-twenties who are exposed to a traumatic event have the greatest risk of developing specific phobia. Factors that predispose individuals to specific phobia include observed or experienced traumatic events, unexpected panic attacks associated with the phobic stimulus, and hearing of dramatic news (e.g., airplane crashes or a fire) through the media or through friends and family.

    Women are more likely than men to suffer from specific phobias. The gender gap, however, is different depending on the type of specific phobia. For example, between 75% and 90% of people with animal, situational, or natural environment phobias are women, while only 55% to 70% of people with phobias involving heights, blood, or injections are women.

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