Phobias

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Phobias Slideshow Pictures

Types of Phobias

Agoraphobia

The definition of agoraphobia is a fear of being outside or otherwise being in a situation from which one either cannot escape or from which escaping would be difficult or humiliating.

The fact that agoraphobia often occurs in combination with panic disorder makes it even more difficult to track how often it occurs. Other statistics about agoraphobia include that researchers estimate it occurs from less than 1% to almost 7% of the population. Its age of onset is most often during the mid to late 20s.

Quick GuidePhobias Picture Slideshow: What Are You Afraid Of?

Phobias Picture Slideshow: What Are You Afraid Of?

Phobia facts

  • The definition of a phobia is the persistent fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it.
  • The three types of phobias are social phobia (fear of public speaking, meeting new people or other social situations), agoraphobia (fear of being outside), and specific phobias (fear of other items or situations).
  • Although phobias often go underreported, the statistics for people who have phobias are thought to be more than 6 million people in the United States.
  • The average age that phobias begin is about 10 years of age.
  • Women tend to be twice as likely to develop a phobia compared to men.
  • While there are almost as many phobias as there are situations, the most common kinds of phobias include social phobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, coulrophobia, aerophobia, zoophobia, arachnophobia, dentophobia, aichmophobia, ophidiophobia, acrophobia, mysophobia, and hemophobia.
  • Agoraphobia often co-occurs with panic disorder.
  • If not treated, a phobia may worsen to the point where the person's life is seriously impacted by the phobia and by attempts to avoid or hide it, resulting in problems with physical health, friends and family, failure in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope.
  • Phobias tend to run in families, can be influenced by culture and parenting style, and can be triggered by life events.
  • People with phobias seem to be more likely to deal with stress by avoiding the trigger for the stress and have trouble minimizing the severity of the fearful situation.
  • Symptoms of phobias often involve panic attacks.
  • The evaluation of phobias often includes questions by a health-care professional that explore the symptoms that are occurring, a medical interview, and a physical examination.
  • The treatment of phobias often includes the use of desensitization, cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or medications.
  • The groups of medications doctors tend to choose from when treating a phobia include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, beta-blockers, and occasionally, benzodiazepines.
  • Phobia sufferers sometimes cope with their fears by talking about it, refraining from avoiding situations they find stressful, visualization, and making positive self-statements.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2016
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