Phobia: Types of phobias (intense and irrational fear)

Phobias are diagnosable mental disorders. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which a patient has a persistent, intense and exaggerated fear of a certain object, living thing, activity or environment. This fear is unrealistic as it poses little to no real danger. Patients with this irrational fear do everything they can to avoid exposure to the fear stimulus. However, this leads to limitations in daily life. In addition to these psychological symptoms, physical signs such as chest pain and excessive sweating are also manifested. The treatment of a phobia consists of medication and behavioral therapy. This often makes it possible to learn to live with the symptoms.

  • Epidemiology
  • Causes of intense, irrational and exaggerated fear
  • Species
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social phobia
  • Specific phobia
  • Examples of phobias
  • Symptoms: Constant intense feelings of anxiety
  • Mental signs
  • Physical signs
  • Diagnosis and examinations
  • Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medicines
  • Other therapies
  • Prognosis
  • Complications of mental illness



Most phobias begin during early childhood, teen years, or early adulthood. It is unusual for a phobia to start after the age of thirty.

Causes of intense, irrational and exaggerated fear

Phobias may be the result of a stressful experience or frightening event. Sometimes a parent or family member with a phobia also teaches the phobia to the child.



With agoraphobia, a patient is afraid of situations from which it would be difficult to escape or from which he cannot expect help if he were to experience extreme panic, such as in an elevator or outdoors. This complex phobia applies to both open spaces and small, enclosed spaces. Patients with agoraphobia have an increased risk of panic disorders. Complex phobias result from a combination of life experiences, brain chemistry and genetics.

Social phobia

Social phobia is a deep fear of one or more social situations (contact with strangers, being judged), in which a patient has to perform or function and fears degradation (humiliation). The idea of large social gatherings is terrifying for a patient with social anxiety disorder. So this is not the same as shyness. Like agoraphobia, social phobia is a complex phobia.

Specific phobia

Specific phobias usually develop before the age of four to eight years. Specific phobias are known as simple phobias because they can be linked to an identifiable cause that is not common in a patient’s daily life, such as snakes. A specific phobia is therefore a type of anxiety disorder in which a patient is extremely anxious or has a panic attack when exposed to the object or situation of fear (water, flies, animals, etc.). The fear is usually not of the thing itself, but of a terrible outcome, such as falling out of an airplane. In some cases, the specific phobia is the result of a traumatic early experience. An example is the development of claustrophobia after a younger child has had an unpleasant experience in an enclosed space. Phobias that begin in childhood are also sometimes the result of acquiring the phobia from a family member. For example, a child whose mother has arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is much more likely to develop the same phobia. A specific phobia usually affects daily life less seriously than social phobia or agoraphobia.

Examples of phobias

Common examples of phobias are listed below. This list is anything but complete.

  • acrophobia: fear of heights
  • aerophobia: fear of flying
  • aquaphobia: fear of water
  • arachnophobia: fear of spiders
  • automysophobia: morbid fear of being polluted or smelling unpleasant
  • carcinophobia: morbid fear of cancer
  • carniphobia (carnophobia, horror carnis): reluctance to eat meat
  • claustrophobia: fear of being in closed spaces (rooms, halls, churches, elevators).
  • cynophobia: fear of dogs
  • dentophobia: fear of the dentist
  • emetophobia: fear of vomiting
  • erythrophobia (rubrophobia): fear of the color red or red objects or the fear of blushing
  • Escalaphobia: Fear of escalators
  • hemophobia: fear of blood or injury
  • hydrophobia: fear of water, the fear of drinking or swallowing, which occurs mainly in rabies (lyssa), but also in other conditions such as tetanus (bacterial infection with muscle contractions)
  • hypochondria: fear of getting sick
  • mysophobia: morbid fear of touching anything, caused by the obsession that everything is contaminated or dirty
  • nyctophobia: fear at night
  • panphobia: morbid fear of people, animals and inanimate things
  • Paralipophobia: the fear among some psychiatric patients that failure to perform certain, usually unimportant actions, could have disastrous consequences for others.
  • potamophobia: morbid fear of running water
  • scelophobia (pavor sceleris): fear of being kidnapped
  • school phobia: persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school in children
  • symbolophobia: the fear of performing certain actions that one imagines as symbolic of bad luck or crime, for example walking under a ladder, putting shoes on the table, placing knives crosswise, etc.
  • teratophobia: a pregnant woman’s morbid fear of giving birth to a miscarriage
  • triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13
  • tunnelphobia: fear of tunnels
  • vener(e)ophobia: morbid fear of having or developing a venereal disease
  • vertigophobia: morbid fear of dizziness
  • vomitophobia: fear of vomiting, urge to vomit due to emotions
  • zoophobia: fear of animals


Symptoms: Constant intense feelings of anxiety

Mental signs

A phobia is an anxiety disorder in which a patient has an unreasonable and exaggerated fear with a specific content that is disproportionate to the potential threat. The patient experiences a fear response when exposed to the feared object or even thinking about it causes anxiety. The patient also understands that he has this fear, but he cannot explain or correct it himself. The fear is much stronger than the real threat. The patient starts to show avoidance behavior due to the phobia. In other words, he will avoid places where he might come into contact with the feared object or animal. For example, a patient may avoid driving through tunnels if he has a phobia. This avoidance behavior causes obstacles in daily life such as work and social life.Chest pain is one of the physical symptoms of a phobia / Source: Pexels, Pixabay

Physical signs

Due to the feelings of anxiety, a patient experiences the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • tremors
  • disorientation
  • dizziness
  • abnormal breathing
  • a dry mouth
  • a feeling of pins and needles
  • a fast heartbeat
  • rapid speech or the inability to speak
  • increased blood pressure
  • a suffocating sensation
  • palpitations
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • cold shivers
  • stomach ache
  • nausea
  • hot flashes
  • excessive sweating
  • chestpain
  • problems with muscle control
  • tremble
  • confusion
  • to sweat


Diagnosis and examinations

A doctor can diagnose a phobia when a patient organizes his life around avoiding the cause of the fear. The phobia is more serious than a normal fear reaction. Patients with a phobia have an overwhelming need to avoid something that triggers their fear. The doctor asks about the history of phobias and also needs a description of the behavior of the patient, his family or friends.


The doctor wants to help the patient to live daily life without fear. The success of treatment usually depends on the severity of the phobia.


Psychotherapy is usually the first treatment option. This includes one of the following options.Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) Cognitive behavioral therapy (form of psychotherapy) helps to change the thoughts that cause anxiety.Group therapy and contact groups These forms of therapy help patients deal with common phobias, such as fear of flying.Exposure-based treatment (exposure therapy) In exposure therapy, the patient is gradually exposed to the phobia.Various symptoms relieve the symptoms / Source: Stevepb, Pixabay


The doctor prescribes medications that he usually uses to treat depression (antidepressants). The medications prevent the symptoms or make them less severe. The patient must take these medicines every day and should not simply stop taking the medication without first consulting the doctor. Beta blockers reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety associated with a phobia. Sometimes the doctor also prescribes sedatives (or hypnotics), but the patient should not take these every day. The patient uses these medications when symptoms become very severe or when he is about to be exposed to something that always causes your symptoms. If the doctor has prescribed a sedative, the patient should not drink alcohol while taking this medicine. Close monitoring by the doctor is necessary.

Other therapies

Other measures that can reduce the number of attacks include:

  • a reduction or avoidance of caffeine, some over-the-counter cold medications, and other stimulants
  • getting enough sleep
  • get regular exercise



Phobias are usually chronic and sometimes difficult to overcome. With effective treatment, it is possible to get the symptoms under control so that the patient can live a happy, productive and fulfilling life.

Complications of mental illness

Some phobias affect work performance or social functioning. Some anti-anxiety medications that the doctor prescribes to treat phobias cause physical dependence or other side effects.

read more

  • Agoraphobia: Fear of crowded situations and places
  • Anxiety & Anxiety: Types & Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
  • Specific phobias: Fear of an object or situation
  • Fear of heights (acrophobia): Fear of heights/high places
  • Claustrophobia: Irrational fear of enclosed spaces