According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an uncontrollable, irrational, and persistent fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. The fear experienced by people with phobias can be so great that some individuals go to extreme lengths to avoid the source of their fear. One extreme response to the source of a phobia can be a panic attack.
Every year, approximately 19 million Americans experience one or more phobias that range from mild to severe. Phobias can occur in early childhood, but usually are first evident between the ages of 15 and 20 years. They affect both genders equally, although men are more likely to seek treatment for phobias.
Research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the onset of phobias. Specific phobias have been associated with a fearful first encounter with the phobic object or situation. The question still exists, however, whether this conditioning exposure is necessary or if phobias can develop in genetically predisposed individuals.
|Specific phobia||What is specific phobia?
Specific phobia is characterized by extreme fear of an object or situation that is not harmful under general conditions.
Examples may include a fear of the following:
What are the characteristics of specific phobia?
|Social phobia||What is social phobia?
Social phobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person has significant anxiety and discomfort related to a fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, or scorned by others in social or performance situations. Even when they manage to confront this fear, persons with social phobia usually:
Social phobia frequently occurs with the following:
What are the characteristics of social phobia?
Most people experiencing social phobia will try to avoid situations that provoke dread or otherwise cause them much distress.
Diagnosing social phobia
Social phobia disrupts normal life, interfering with career or social relationships. It often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcoholism. Social phobia often begins around early adolescence or even younger. Approximately 15 million American adults ages 18 to 54 experience social phobia in a given year.
|Agoraphobia||What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a Greek word that literally means "fear of the marketplace." This anxiety disorder involves the fear of experiencing a panic attack in a place or situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing.
The anxiety associated with agoraphobia is so severe that panic attacks are not unusual, and individuals with agoraphobia typically try to avoid the location or cause of their fear. Agoraphobia involves fear of situations such as, but is not limited to, the following:
People with agoraphobia typically avoid crowded places like streets, crowded stores, churches, and theaters.
What are the characteristics of agoraphobia?
People with the disorder often become so disabled that they literally feel they cannot leave their homes. Others who have agoraphobia, do go into potentially "phobic" situations, but only with great distress, or when accompanied by a trusted friend or family member.
Persons with agoraphobia may also develop depression, fatigue, tension, alcohol or drug abuse problems, and obsessive disorders, making seeking treatment crucial. Approximately 1.8 million American adults ages 18 to 54 experience agoraphobia in a given year.
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