A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.
There are many specific phobias. Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places, and claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in places. If you become anxious and extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations, you could have a social phobia. Other common phobias involve tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, animals and blood.
People with phobias try to avoid what they are afraid of. If they cannot, they may experience
- Panic and fear
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- A strong desire to get away
Phobias usually start in children or teens, and continue into adulthood. The causes of specific phobias are not known, but they sometimes run in families.
Treatment helps most people with phobias. Options include medicines, therapy or both.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
- Phobias (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Screening for Specific Phobias (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
- Social Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol Abuse (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
- Agoraphobia (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Fear of Public Speaking: How Can I Overcome It? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness (National Institute of Mental Health) Also in Spanish
- Specific Phobias (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Find a Therapist (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
- Find Your Local NAMI (NAMI)
- Help for Mental Illnesses (National Institute of Mental Health)
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Psychologist Locator (American Psychological Association)