Specific Fear: Diagnoses, Characteristics, Types, Treatments

A specific fear is an anxiety disorder that amounts to an irrational or irrational fear related to exposure to particular objects or situations. As a result, the affected person tends to avoid contact with objects or situations and, in severe cases, any mention or representation of them. Fear can be disabling for your daily life.

It is essential to mention that specific fear can arise when people face any situation that can be triggered. A person who encounters what they have a phobia of often shows signs of anxiety or expresses discomfort. It is usual for fears to end in panic and general worries.

In most adults, the person can logically know that the fear is unreasonable but still finds it difficult to control the anxiety. Therefore, this condition can significantly impair the person’s functioning and even their physical health. Specific phobia affects 12% of people at some point in their life.

You can also read: Fear of Bathing: Characteristics, Symptoms, Treatment


Main characteristics of the diagnostic criteria for specific phobia in the

  • Marked and persistent fear is excessive or unreasonable, caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
  • Being in front of any fear can manifest itself; it is generally an irrational panic as part of an immediate symptom.
  • In children, anxiety can express itself through crying, tantrums, freezing, or holding.
  • The person shows that their fears are often uncontrollable.
  • In children, this feature may be absent.
  • The phobic situation (s) is avoided or endured with intense anxiety or distress.


  • Fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (In children, fear/anxiety can be expressed by crying, throwing tantrums, freezing, or holding on)
  • The phobic object or situation almost always causes immediate fear or anxiety.


According to the fourth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, phobias can be classified into the following general categories:


  • Fear of dogs, cats, rats and mice, pigs, cows, birds, spiders, or snakes.

Natural environment

  • Fear of water (aquaphobia), heights (acrophobia), lightning and storms (astraphobia), or aging (gerascophobia).

Type of situation

  • Fear of small, confined spaces (claustrophobia) or the dark (nyctophobia).

Blood type / injection / injury

  • This includes fear of medical procedures, including needles and injections (trypanophobia), blood ( hemophobia ), and fear of injury.
  • Others – children’s fear of loud sounds or costumed characters.


The following are two therapies that are commonly used to treat specific phobia:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term, skills-focused therapy that aims to help people diffuse unhelpful emotional responses by assisting people in viewing them differently or changing their behavior, is effective in treating specific phobias.
  • Exposure therapy is a particularly effective form of CBT for specific phobias.
  • Medications to help CBT have not been as encouraging, except adjuvant D-glycerin.

In general, anxiolytic medication is not considered helpful in specific phobia. Still, benzodiazepines are sometimes used to help resolve acute episodes, as data from 2007 were sparse regarding the efficacy of any drug.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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