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Symptoms of Phobias

Recognizing the Symptoms of Phobias

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Updated February 07, 2009

A phobia is defined as an irrational and intense fear of a specific object or situation. Phobias are classified as anxiety disorders by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th Ed; DSM-IV), and are the leading type of mental illness in adult women. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from a phobia.

Phobias vary in severity from person to person. Some people are able to manage their symptoms and face the feared object, albeit with a great sense of terror. Others are motivated by the phobia to avoid the feared situation, sometimes at great personal cost.

Common Symptoms

Phobias can be divided into three types: specific phobia, social phobia and agoraphobia. Although the symptoms of each type will vary, there are some symptoms common to all phobias. These include:

Terror: A persistent and overwhelming fear of the object or situation.
Physical Symptoms: Dizziness, shaking, palpitations.
Obsessive Thoughts: Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear.
Desire to Flee: An intense instinct to leave the situation.
Anticipatory Anxiety: Persistent worrying about upcoming events that involve the phobic object or situation.

Symptoms of a Specific Phobia

A specific phobia is a phobia of a specified object or event. More than one specific phobia may occur simultaneously. Specific phobias may also occur alongside other mental illnesses.

Symptoms of Social Phobia

A social phobia is a phobia of social situations that involve interaction with strangers. Social phobia may be generalized, encompassing most forms of social interaction; or may be limited to one or more specific situations.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a phobia of being trapped in a situation where escape or help is not easily available in the event of a panic attack. Agoraphobia may be part of a panic disorder or may exist alone.

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