Counseling - Oregon & Washington

Specific Phobias

What does it look like?

People with specific phobias experience excessive and unreasonable fear when anticipating a specific object or situation. The fear is above and beyond the actual dangerousness of the object or situation. The focus of the fear may be predicted harm or they may also have concerns about losing control, panicking, or fainting if they are exposed to the object or situation. Adults often recognize that the intense fear is irrational, but have a difficult time enduring the object or situation without considerable distress. They may feel intense panic, crying, feeling paralyzed, tantrums, and become clinging when they are in the situation or around the object. The fear interferes with their life because they are unable to do certain activities, go to desired places, or see family or friends. Their fear can impact major life decisions.

Some of the most common phobias include: animals, insects, heights, elevators, flying, driving, water, storms, vomit, and blood or injections.

Who is affected?

Phobias are common in the general population, but rarely result in enough impairment or distress to qualify for a diagnosis of specific phobia. Approximately 8 % of the adult population suffers from one or more specific phobias in any given year.

Where does it come from?

Fears are likely to develop given the right combination of experiences and individual factors. Some individuals may be predisposed because of their genetic background, but it does not guarantee the development of specific phobias. The reason a phobia persists over time is usually different than the initial reason the phobia started. Treatment focuses on why a phobia is persisting.

When does it happen?

Specific phobias often begin in childhood, although there is a second onset in the mid 20’s. Most phobia’s persist for years and relatively few go away without treatment.

How do we treat it?

The most effective treatment is Cognitive behavior therapy and Exposure therapy.