Understanding Specific Phobias

Understanding Specific Phobias

Find Services and other Health Information from A-Z

Understanding Specific Phobias

You’re out enjoying the day on your bike. Then you notice a dog just down the street. Your heart starts pounding—but not from the exercise. Your throat closes, and you can’t breathe. You don’t know why you’re afraid of dogs. But your terror is real. Fortunately, you don’t have to feel this way. Talk to your doctor. You may have a specific phobia. If so, there are treatments that can help you overcome your fear.

Man walking down street with bicycle. Dog is watching him from across the street.

What Are Specific Phobias?

A specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes an intense fear of a certain object or situation. Many people with this disorder fear animals such as dogs or snakes. Other people are afraid of closed spaces (claustrophobia), heights (acrophobia), or flying. Often, there’s no reason to be afraid. Yet the fear seems beyond your control. You try to avoid what scares you at any cost. This may make it hard to live a normal life.

Who Do They Affect?

Specific phobias affect both men and women. Many begin in childhood. Some of these might go away as you get older. But you may need help with phobias that persist into your adult years.

What Can Help?

The good news is that specific phobias are often easy to treat. You can be helped by behavior therapy. Working with your therapist, you’ll slowly learn to face your fears. There are also medications that help you control your anxiety. They can give you more confidence to handle fearful situations.


National Institute of Mental Health  888-826-9438  www.nimh.nih.gov

Anxiety and Depression Association of America  301-231-9350  www.adaa.org