A phobia is an irrational fear that causes avoidance of the feared subject, activity, or situation. Either the presence of, or the mere anticipation of, the feared entity causes severe distress in an affected person; these fear responses may cause panic attacks. Persons with phobias usually recognize that their reaction is excessive, but are unable to control them. Phobic symptoms frequently disrupt a person’s ability to function in life.
A specific phobia is a strong, persisting fear of an object or situation. Persons with specific phobias may anticipate harm, such as being in an accident if they drive on highways, or may panic at the thought of losing control; for example, if they fear being in an elevator, they may also worry about fainting after the door closes.
Social phobia (also called social anxiety disorder) is a strong, persisting fear of social and performance situations in which embarrassment can occur, or in which persons are afraid embarrassment may occur or others will judge them to be anxious, weak, crazy, or stupid. Persons with social phobia have excessive fears of humiliation or embarrassment in various social settings, such as in initiating and/or maintaining conversations, participating in small or large groups, dating, speaking to authority figures, attending parties, or urinating in a public restroom. Many people experience significant anticipatory anxiety prior to the event, and many have anxiety about having the phobia. Common traits in those with social phobia include: hypersensitivity to criticism, low self-esteem, difficulty being assertive, feelings of inferiority, and fear of direct evaluation by others.
Symptom resolution is possible with phobias and anxieties with an effective treatment regimen that includes pharmacotherapy (medication) in combination with psychotherapy.
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