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.

Quick GuideWhat's Your Biggest Fear? Phobias

What's Your Biggest Fear? Phobias

What are phobia symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of phobias often involve having a panic attack -- in that they include feelings of intense fear, dread, or terror, despite understanding that those feelings are out of proportion to any real threat -- in addition to physical symptoms like tremors, sweating, "mind going blank," nausea, rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, and an overwhelming desire to withdraw from the situation that is causing the phobic reaction. Also, extreme measures are sometimes taken to prevent or leave the situation.

How do health-care professionals diagnose phobias?

Many health-care providers may assess for the diagnosis of phobias, including licensed mental-health therapists, family doctors, or other primary-care medical providers, specialists whom you see for a medical condition, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. If one of these practitioners suspects that you may have a phobia, you will likely be asked a number of questions to explore all the symptoms you may be having and you may need to have a medical interview and physical examination. A phobia may co-occur with a number of other mental-health problems, including schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance-abuse disorders.

Phobias are particularly associated with other anxiety disorders. In addition to panic disorder, examples of other anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In children, school phobia or a fear of being alone may occur with or without separation anxiety disorder. As anxiety disorders in general may co-occur with a number of medical conditions or can be a reaction to various medications, routine laboratory tests are often done during the initial evaluation to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2016

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