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Symptoms of Phobias

Recognizing the Symptoms of Phobias

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Updated June 10, 2014

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

Sad woman sitting with her hands on her cheeks.
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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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