Most people will feel some degree of anxiety and discomfort when they anticipate a painful experience, such as getting an injection, or when faced with potential danger, such as being confronted by an angry, barking dog.
People with a specific phobia, however, have developed an extreme fear of a particular object, activity or situation which is out of proportion with the actual level of threat posed. People with specific phobia will actively avoid the feared object or situation and experience a high level of anxiety if it is encountered.
Common phobias include:
- animal related phobias (e.g., snakes, spiders, dogs)
- phobias relating to the natural environment (e.g., storms, water)
- blood, injection, and injury phobias (e.g., needles, medical procedures)
- situational phobias (e.g., elevators, aeroplanes, tunnels).
Specific phobias usually develop during childhood and they are twice as likely to be diagnosed in women compared to men. Over 75 per cent of people with a specific phobia experience multiple phobias over their lifetime.