Specific Phobias

Home Disorders Specific Phobias

What Is a Specific Phobia?

A specific phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to something. People with phobias experience high levels of distress and go out of their way to avoid the places, situations, or objects they fear. Most common phobias include fears of animals, insects, germs, heights, thunder, driving, doctors, medical procedures, flying, public transportation, and elevators. Most phobias develop in childhood but some fears such as claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) can begin in adulthood. Many people with specific phobias are aware their phobia is irrational, but are unable to overcome their fears on their own. In a given year, approximately 7% to 9% of individuals experience a specific phobia. Rates increase through childhood to adolescence, and then are lower in older adults. Females are more likely to experience animal, natural environment, and situational specific phobias, while blood-injection-injury phobias occur equally in males and females.

Although many psychologists and their client may believe that all fears are established through learning, surveys indicate that only a very small percentage of patients with specific phobia can trace the onset of their fear to specific frightening events reflecting either classical conditioning or imitation. Most fears such as fears of snakes, insects, water, animals, lightning, blood injury, and heights - have biological value in primitive environments. Genetics has also been shown to be an important factor in developing a specific phobia. However, it should be noted that the role of genetic and evolutionary factors in specific phobia does not preclude the use of exposure as an intervention.


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Please contact our Director of Intake Services at 212-595-9559 (ext.1) or 914-385-1150 (ext.1), or fill out the form above, with any questions regarding eligibility, for further information, or to make a referral. If you are a current patient at CBC, please speak to your individual therapist to see how this group may be of added benefit to you.