Specific (Simple) Phobias
Specific (or simple) phobias are intense irrational fears of a particular object or situation which poses little or no danger. Some of the more common specific phobias involve heights, closed-in places, highway driving, dogs and injuries involving blood. Sometimes thinking of the phobia can elicit a panic attack.
Over six million Americans are affected by a specific phobia. Twice as many women are diagnosed with specific phobias. In general, the exact causes of phobias are not well-understood but phobias seem to run in families. Specific phobic symptoms usually first occur in childhood or adolescence.
When the source of the phobia is easy to avoid, individuals do not experience a need to seek treatment. Sometimes, however, these fears may influence important life decisions. Most phobias may be effectively treated with carefully targeted psychotherapy. Sometimes, psychiatric medications are used to augment psychotherapy.
Medications most commonly prescribed may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. Meditation, yoga and other wellness techniques may help to learn calming exercises which may enhance the effects of therapy. Avoidance of caffeine, illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can help keep symptoms at a minimum.
More information about specifc phobias may be obtained by contacting the resources listed below.
Freedom from Fear
308 Seaview Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 600
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT)
305 7th Avenue, 16th floor
New York, NY 10001
Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Rm. 12-105 Parklawn Building
Rockville, MD 20857
National Institute of Mental Health
Office of Communications
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Toll Free: 1-866-615-NIMH (6464)