SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Phobias are divided into three main categories:
- Specific phobias. These include a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); animals (zoophobia), particularly spiders, snakes or mice; heights (acrophobia); flying (aviophobia); 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
- In children, possibly tantrums, clinging or crying
When to see a doctor
An unreasonable fear can be an annoyance — having to take the stairs instead of an elevator, for instance — but it isn't considered a phobia unless it seriously disrupts your life. If anxiety affects your ability to function at work or socially, consider seeking medical or psychological treatment. Most people can be helped with the right therapy.
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