Phobias | Symptoms & Treatment Options | Zencare — Zencare


Fears, even intense and irrationally ones, are a normal part of life. Most of us have experienced an irrationally strong desire to get away from a spider, or we’ve considered skipping a social event because we’re scared we’ll embarrass ourselves. Some degree of fear can be a healthy reaction to many common situations.

But when these fears become especially persistent, they can get in the way of a healthy day-to-day lifestyle.


What are phobias?

Phobias are a mental health condition in which an individual consistently experiences intense, typically irrational fear in reaction to a specific situation or object. These fears can be specific phobias in response to a certain thing — like snakes or blood — or they might fall under the umbrella of social phobia or agoraphobia. Phobias are often thought of as a sub-category of anxiety.

Prevalence of phobias

Phobias are among the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 12.5% of adults in the United States experience a specific phobia at some point during their lives. The figure is similar for social phobia, at 12.1%. Agoraphobia is less common, affecting 1.3% of adults at some point in their lives.

For both specific phobias and social phobia, diagnoses are somewhat more common for women than for men.

Symptoms of phobias

In most cases, the symptoms of phobias align closely with the symptoms of anxiety disorders, but in the case of phobias, these symptoms are always triggered by the object or situation that an individual fears Some common symptoms include:

Types of phobias

Phobias fall under three broad categories. They are:

Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia is generally understood as a fear of being in any situation from which immediate escape may not be possible. This often manifests in a fear of going out of the house and/or into crowded or enclosed places.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a phobia, one or more of the following options may be helpful for you:

How to find a therapist for treating phobias

Consider different therapy approaches

The two most common treatments for phobias are:

Additional therapeutic options for phobias include:

Prioritize personal fit

While personality fit is a nuanced factor, it is critical to your success in therapy. Multiple studies have revealed the importance of this factor, often referred to as “therapeutic alliance.”

On your initial phone call with the therapist, ask yourself:

Consider cost, location, and scheduling

Therapy will only work if it works for you. Before making an appointment, ask yourself honestly:

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.