Most everyone fears something. Typically, we control our fears and continue with our daily activities. Some people, however, experience exaggerated and irrational fear of a specific situation, place, animal or object. This anxiety may be so intense that it results in a panic attack. People who experience such exaggerated and irrational fears have a Specific Phobia. The most common Specific Phobia is fear of animals. And, while there are literally hundreds of Specific Phobias documented, other common fears include blood, heights, enclosed places, elevators, flying, lightning, dentists and insects. Although people who suffer from Specific Phobias may realize their fear is unreasonable, they are unable to prevent the intense anxiety and dread that may occur if they encounter the subject of their fear - and, sometimes, when they're simply just thinking about it. When people with a Specific Phobia are unable to avoid the source of their fear, they may experience extreme anxiety and discomfort, along with various other symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, trembling, weakness or even a panic attack. The good news is that many Specific Phobias are relatively simple to avoid. For example, a fear of pigs probably wouldn't pose a problem in a big city. Similarly a fear of trains could be avoided by choosing a different mode of transportation. On the other hand, a fear of flying would be a significant issue for someone whose job requires traveling. And fears of making decisions, lightning or even dogs could potentially keep a person housebound, unable to attend to their daily responsibilities. Specific Phobias often begin in childhood, and rarely after the mid-20s. They also tend to run in families. For example, the child of a parent who has a fear of spiders is likely also to develop that same fear. Most people with Specific Phobias can improve their quality of life and reduce their fears through treatment from a trained therapist. Treatment may involve cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, relaxation techniques, anxiety management or medication - usually in a combination that's tailored to the patient's needs. The aim of treatment is to help patients reduce their anxiety and overcome their fears by confronting the phobia in a controlled way, or through gradual exposure to the subject of their fear. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may also be used to help reduce symptoms and enhance the therapy's effectiveness. Specific Phobias can be treated successfully. If you - or someone you know - is affected by Specific Phobia, consult a mental health professional.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012