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Psychotherapy for Phobias

What is a phobia? A phobia is a kind of anxiety disorder. A phobia is a constant and irrational fear of a situation, activity, person or people, animal, and objects. A person that has a phobia will usually alter their life to avoid any anxiety and stress.


There are phobias that can allow a person to live a normal life by just avoiding the object, person, or animal that they fear. For example, if a person has a phobia of cats, which is called Ailurophobia, then they can just places that have cats, but there are phobias that people have to alter their lives extremely.


The phobias actually control their lives and affects their job, social activities, and so much more. The phobias prevent people from living and functioning as normal individuals, and the phobias will usually cause panic attacks. There are approximately nineteen million people in the United States that have phobias.


Three Types of Phobias

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identify three types of phobias. The three types of phobias include:

1. Social Phobia

Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder. Social phobia is the fear of social locations and settings. Usually, social phobia will start happening with people in their teens. For some people the social phobia will get better as they age, but for some people it doesn’t. Social phobia is not just being shy! Social phobia will affect relationships, social activities, jobs, and self-confidence. There are some people that are so afraid of being judged they just avoid certain places and situations.


Do You Have Social Phobia? Do You Have These Symptoms?

  • Worry about daily activities?

  • Avoid going to social gatherings?

  • Have low self-esteem?

  • Afraid of being criticize

  • Have panic attacks and intense fear?

  • Have a rapid heartbeat and intense sweating?

  • Are depressed often?


People with social phobia don’t like meeting new people, going shopping, and even speaking on the phone. Social phobia can start doing small activities to get over their social phobia. One in twenty people have social phobia.

2. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a situation that would be hard to get away if the person was to have a panic attack. Agoraphobia is commonly known as having a fear of open spaces, but it also applies to being in a very small space such as being on a public bus or train, and in an elevator. Agoraphobia is known as a complex phobia. Many people that have this phobia find it difficult leaving their home or being in a crowd.

Do You Have Agoraphobia? Do You Have These Symptoms?

  • Have a rapid heartbeat?

  • Have rapid breathing?

  • Do you get sweaty?

  • Do you feel sick?


People that have Agoraphobia will order their groceries online, so they can avoid going to the store. This type of behavior is referred to as avoidance.

3. Specific Phobia

Specific phobia is having an intense and unreasonable fear of a specific object. A person that has specific phobia could have an intense fear of heights, a spider, an animal, or any object.


Do You Have Specific Phobia? Do You Have These Symptoms?

  • Is your breathing abnormal?

  • Do you have a rapid heartbeat?

  • Do you have confusion?

  • Do you get nausea?

  • Do you sweat a lot?

  • Do you experience chest pains?


People that have specific phobia can become anxious when they think about the object.


What are the Top Ten Most Common Phobias?

  1. Social Phobia – Social phobia is the most common of the phobias. Social phobia is an extreme fear of social places and situations.

  2. Fear of Open Spaces (Agoraphobia) – This phobia is a complex phobia and a very serious anxiety disorder. Fear of open spaces and specific locations is this type of phobia.

  3. Fear of Heights (Acrophobia) – Being on an escalator, looking at a tall building, or looking over a cliff is this type of phobia.

  4. Fear of Flying (Pteromerhanophobia) – Being afraid of flying is this type of phobia.

  5. Fear of Small and Enclosed Spaces (Claustrophobia) – Being afraid of being in a tight and small space is this type of phobia.

  6. Fear of Insects (Entomopobia) – Being afraid of spiders and insects is this type of phobia.

  7. Fear of Snakes (Ophidiophobia) – Being afraid of snakes, and even seeing pictures is this type of phobia.

  8. Fear of Dogs (Cynophobia) – Being afraid of dogs is a very common phobia, especially with children. Many times, this phobia comes to a person when they have had a negative experience with a dog.

  9. Fear of Storms (Astraphobia) – Being afraid of lighting, thunder, tornadoes, and hurricanes is this type of phobia.

  10. Fear of Needles (Trypanophobia) – Getting a shot or taking blood is an unpleasant thought for some people, and this is this type of phobia.


Complex Phobias – What Are They?


Complex phobias are usually more damaging than simple phobias. Complex phobias usually start once a person is an adult and are based around a bad situation, an intense fear, and anxiety. Agoraphobia and Social Phobia are the two most common complex phobias.


A person with agoraphobia will become anxious when they are in a place where they feel like they couldn’t escape if they start to have a panic attack, and a person with social phobia will become anxious if they have to talk in front of people or being bullied and humiliated. Both of these complex phobias can prevent people from having a normal and regular lifestyle.


What Causes Phobias?


There isn’t one particular thing that can cause phobias, but there are several factors that are associated to phobias, which include:

  • Genetics –Some people are more prone to developing a phobia than other people are.

  • Traumas – A bad incident can cause a phobia.

  • Learned Phobias – A child can sometimes develop a phobia that their parent or a sibling has.

  • Strong Reaction to Fear – Having a strong reaction to an experience or person can cause a phobia.

  • Lengthy Stress – Having stress for a lengthy time can cause you to develop a phobia.


Phobias – How Common Are They?


According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the most common mental disorders are phobias in the United States. In the United States, approximately ten percent of people have phobias. The percentage is low, because many mental disorders and phobias are not commonly reported.

Symptoms of Phobias

Symptoms of phobias can happen with coming in contact with the object that is feared or the situation that is feared, and sometimes by just thinking about them can cause the symptoms to happen. Some of the top symptoms of phobias include:

  • Become dizzy

  • Heartrate is increased

  • Trembling

  • Having trouble breathing normally

  • Becoming nauseas

  • Afraid of dying

  • Preoccupied with the fear itself

  • Panic attacks


Child and Adolescent Phobias

Nearly ten percent of children and adolescents deal with a phobia type. At some point in their lives, children will have some fears. Most fears with children are normal, and the child will usually outgrow the fears. If the fear last longer than six months, then this could be an anxiety disorder. Normal childhood fears are referred to as transient fears, which means they are only temporary, and your child will probably outgrow these fears.


Common Fears and Phases That Children Go Through:

  • Staying close and holding on to their parents when new people are being introduced.

  • When separated from a parent, the child becomes emotionally upset.

  • Having anxiety when the child is at an unfamiliar place.


t is very normal for children to have the fear of being separated from their parents, but when the child has a major struggle with it, this is called separation anxiety order or SAD.

Your Child May Have A Phobia If:

  • The fear last longer than six months

  • If the child has anxiety or fear with going to school, routine daily activities, and relationships with family members.


Is Your Child Shy or Does Your Child Have a Phobia?

If your child just gets mildly upset when they meet new people or is nervous when they have to talk in front of their class, then they are probably just shy, but if your child tries to avoid these types of situations, then they may have a phobia. A child that has a phobia may have anxiety and a major

fear so much so that it will do these:

  • Interfere with their normal daily routine and activities

  • Can’t function while at school

  • Family relationships are affected

  • Friendships are damaged


How Do They Diagnose Phobias With Children?

At first, the doctor will rule out any physical problems with the child, then an evaluation will be done by a child psychiatrist. If your child’s symptoms have met the specific criteria associated with a phobia, then that is when your child will have a diagnosis. If your child is having panic attacks this could be difficult for your doctor to diagnose, which will lead to your child to having numerous tests performed, so the diagnoses is accurate.

Treating Phobias in Children

Before a phobia is treated with your child, the symptoms that your child is having along with your child’s age, and overall health will be considered. The treatment will also be determined on how severe the phobia is with your child, but parent’s shouldn’t worry, because phobias can be treated. Some phobia treatments for children include:

  • Individual Behavioral Therapy – This treatment will teach your child how to control any panic attacks and anxiety.

  • Medications – There are some medications that can be prescribed for children to stop any panic and anxiety attacks, but you should ask the doctor what the risks are before you start giving your child any medications.

  • Meeting With School Staff Members – Once you get the diagnoses that your child has a phobia, then you should meet with the school staff members to discuss the treatment plan that the doctor has recommended.

  • Family Therapy – Family therapy is an important role for phobia treatments.

Preventing Phobias in Children and Adolescents

The most common question that parents ask is how can they prevent phobias with their children and adolescents, which is a wonderful question. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent phobias in children and adolescents. Parents that see the symptoms in their child early can help ease phobia symptoms, and this will only improve your child’s life.

Children Living With Phobias

At some point and time, children will have fears. If the fears persist and go untreated, then this can be a major issue for your child for the rest of their life. Treatment for phobias in children and adolescents is very important. Parents can help their child with these tips;

  • Be nonjudgmental

  • Be Supportive

  • Make sure your child keeps doing the treatment that the doctor recommended

  • Go to family therapy

  • Find support in your area

  • Always listen to your child

  • Answer any questions your child may have


Long-Term Expectations For Children and Adolescents with Phobias

When treated properly, most children and adolescents with phobias will improve. Children and adolescents may have fear and anxiety symptoms occasionally, but treatment will lessen them. Don’t give up! Your child can have a fulfilling and happy life by sticking to the treatment plan.



Phobias can be treated. There are a variety of treatments that can manage phobias. Sadly, there are no ways that you can prevent phobias, but with early detection and treatment you can reduce and sometimes eliminate phobia symptoms. 

For phobia counseling contact Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D., Psychologist -  CA License PSY11660 at (949) 454-0996 at

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