According to the Mayo Clinic:
A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger. Unlike the brief anxiety most people feel when they give a speech or take a test, a phobia is long-lasting, causes intense physical and psychological distress, and can affect your ability to function normally at work or in social settings.
Several types of phobias exist. Some people fear large, open spaces. Others are unable to tolerate certain social situations. And still others have a specific phobia, such as a fear of snakes, elevators or flying.
Not all phobias need treatment, but if a phobia affects your daily life, a number of therapies are available that can help you overcome your fears — often permanently.
Phobias are divided into three main categories:
* Specific phobias These include a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); animals, particularly spiders, snakes or mice; heights (acrophobia); flying (pterygophobia); water (hydrophobia); storms; dentists; injections; tunnels; bridges; and not being able to get off public transportation quickly enough. There are many other specific phobias.
* Social phobia More than just shyness, social phobia involves a combination of excessive self-consciousness, a fear of public scrutiny or humiliation in common social situations, and a fear of negative evaluation by others.
Fear of open spaces (agoraphobia) Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks. Agoraphobia is a fear of a place, such as a mall, an elevator or a room full of people, with no easy means of escape if a panic attack should occur.
No matter what type of phobia you have, it’s likely to produce the following reactions:
* A feeling of uncontrollable anxiety when you’re exposed to the source of your fear — sitting on an airplane, for instance, or walking into a large party
* The feeling that you must do everything possible to avoid what you fear
* The inability to function normally because of your anxiety
* Often, the knowledge that your fears are unreasonable or exaggerated but feeling powerless to control them
* Physical as well as psychological reactions, including sweating, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, a feeling of panic and intense anxiety
* In some cases, anxiety just thinking about what you fear