Understanding What Are Phobias

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

In this article:

  • Knowing the basics

  • Identifying the symptoms

  • Determining the causes

  • Reducing the risk factors

  • Understanding the treatment

  • Treating the condition through lifestyle changes & home remedies

Knowing the basics

What is a phobia?

Phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of objects or situations that are not really dangerous. Unlike normal short-term anxiety like speaking in public or taking a test, a phobia can be long-lasting, causing intense physical and psychological reactions.


This condition can affect your ability to function normally at work or in a social environment. The most common phobias are fears of flying, high places, elevators, spiders, strangers, injections, blood, and confined spaces.

Identifying the symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of phobias?

Phobia often causes rapid heartbeat and breathing, a feeling of choking, tight chest, excessive sweating, and diarrhea. The condition can lead to serious anxiety or even panic attacks. Generally, people are not able to control their fears and actions. They may mess up at the workplace when experiencing this syndrome.


There may be other symptoms that could show when you have it. Please consult a doctor if you experience any abnormalities.

When to see a doctor

Unreasonable fear can be an annoyance – having to take the stairs instead of an elevator or driving the long way to work instead of taking the freeway, for instance – but it is not considered a specific phobia unless it seriously disrupts your life. If anxiety negatively affects functioning in work, school or social situations, visit a doctor or mental health professional. Most people can be helped if they receive the right therapy.

Determining the causes

What causes it?

At present, the causes are still unknown, but it tends to be inherited and often occurs after a shocking event either suddenly or gradually.

Reducing the risk factors

Who often experiences it?

Most types begin at puberty but fears of animals, blood, storms, and water can first appear in childhood. Women often have more specific phobias than men.

What factors increase the risk of phobia?

There are many factors that can increase your risk of phobia, which include:


  • Age. Social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder) may appear in young children, the average age of onset is 13 years. Specific phobias can begin at the age of 10. Agoraphobia usually starts in the late teens or early adult years (before age 35).

  • Relatives. If someone in the family has a specific phobia or anxiety, you are more likely to develop it too. This could be an inherited tendency, or children may pick up on specific phobias by simply by observing a phobic reaction to an object or a situation.

  • Your temperament. Your risk of phobias may increase if you are more sensitive, more inhibited or more negative than the norm.

  • A negative experience. Experiencing a traumatic event, such as being trapped in an elevator or attacked by an animal, may trigger the development of a specific phobia.

Understand the treatment

The information provided herein is not a substitute for any medical advice. Therefore, ALWAYS consult with a doctor for more information.

How are phobias diagnosed?

No test can conclusively diagnose a phobia. The diagnosis of specific phobias is based on a thorough clinical interview and diagnostic guidelines. You will be asked a few questions about your symptoms and medical history, from which your doctor will conclude whether you have a phobia.

How is it treated?

The goal of treatment is to improve quality of life so that you are no longer restricted by your phobias.


It usually takes several months to treat social phobia, and the treatment time for other specific types are usually shorter. In most cases of animal, syringe, or injury phobias, the symptoms tend to show noticeable improvement after cognitive behavioral therapy.


Both medications and cognitive behavioral therapies can be used together. These medications reduce certain symptoms caused by anxiety, such as tachycardia and palpitations. Medications are often more helpful with social phobia rather than other types of phobia.


Treatments based on imaginative or realistic exposure are the best ways to deal with specific form of phobia. Exposure therapy works best if treatment sessions are arranged closer together. Other therapies such as biofeedback and hypnosis can help patients reduce anxiety and control their heart rate.

Treating the condition through lifestyle changes & home remedies

What lifestyle changes that can help with this problem?

To limit the progression of phobia, you should:


  • Tell a doctor about it. Do not be ashamed of your fears

  • Remember that specific phobias can be treated after a few sessions of therapy

  • Avoid stressful situations wherever possible

  • Exercise more to reduce anxiety

  • Avoid things or situations that cause you to fear

  • Seek medical help if your symptoms get worse or you experience physical complications due to anxiety or depression and you have suicidal thoughts

If you are concerned about any red flags with your health, please consult a doctor for advice on the best treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnose or treatment.

Share now :

Review Date: October 31, 2019 | Last Modified: October 31, 2019

You might also like