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Specific Phobia


Facts to Know:

  • Specific phobias are excessive, irrational fears of objects or situations that are avoided or endured with distress.
  • Many people have specific fears, but specific phobias result in impairments in life and/or significant distress.
  • Specific phobias are treated most effectively with exposure therapy.

What are specific phobias?

Specific phobias are one of the most common psychiatric disorders, occurring in about 12.5% of people at some point over the course of their lives. There are four main types of specific phobia: animal (e.g., spiders, dogs), natural environment (e.g., heights, storms), blood-injection-injury (e.g., needles, medical procedures), and situational (e.g., airplanes, elevators). Most specific phobias first develop during childhood. Specific phobias do not necessarily develop after a prior frightening experience, as many individuals with a specific phobia can recall no such event. Researchers believe that phobias can be traced to a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Symptoms

  • Marked fear of a specific object/situation
  • The object/situation almost always provokes immediate fear 
  • The object/situation is either avoided or endured with intense fear
  • The fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed
  • The fear has lasted for six months or more
  • The fear or avoidance causes significant distress or life impairment

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of specific phobia is best made by a mental health professional such as a therapist.

Treatment

At ColumbiaDoctors, we provide treatment for specific phobias. Search our providers for a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in exposure therapy for specific phobias and may be a good fit.

Psychotherapy

A specific form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) or exposure therapy is an evidence-based treatment for phobias. Specific phobia can be successfully treated even with brief exposure therapy (as little as 2-3 hours or 2-3 sessions). Our psychologists and psychiatrists are trained in the latest treatments and can help you determine which treatment is right for you.

Psychopharmacology (Medication Management)

Research support is limited for medication use with specific phobias. However, scientists are currently investigating whether certain medications could enhance the effects of exposure therapy in phobias. Here at ColumbiaDoctors, our psychiatrists combine a thorough evaluation of each individual’s problems with the latest research to design a customized treatment plan.

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