Phobia are viewed as intense, exaggerated, and unexplained fear in the face of situations, objects or actions. The individuals are fearful or anxious about or avoidant of circumscribed objects or situations. Fear, anxiety, or avoidance are almost always immediately induced by the phobic situation, to a persistent degree and out of proportion to the actual risk posed.
It is important to distinguish phobias and panic disorders. The individual that experiences recurrent unexpected panic attacks is persistently concerned or worried about having more panic attacks and/or changes his or her behavior in maladaptive ways because of the panic attacks (e.g., avoidance of exercise or of unfamiliar locations). This change reaction is rather conscious and planned than phobic reactions to certain situations.
There are many types of specific phobias, for example animal phobia, blood-injection-injury phobia, natural environment phobia. Some specific examples include Claustrophobia which is the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces, Arachnophobia which is the fear of spiders.
To pick out two interesting phobias, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) is defined by the individual being fearful or anxious about or avoidant of social interactions and situations that involve the possibility of being scrutinized (e.g., meeting unfamiliar people and performance situations in front of others). They usually have a cognitive ideation of being negatively evaluated by others, by being embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected, or offending others.
Lastly, Agoraphobia is when individuals are fearful and anxious about two or more of the following situations:
• using public transportation
• being in open spaces
• being in enclosed places
• standing in line or being in a crowd
• or being outside of the home alone in other situations.
The individual fears these situations because he/she thinks that escape might be difficult, or help might not be available in the event of developing panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms. These situations almost always induce fear or anxiety and are often avoided and require the presence of a companion.
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