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If you have an intense and ongoing fear of a particular object or situation, you may have a phobia. Read on to find out more about phobias and whether you might have one.

This can help if:

  • you want to know if you have a phobia
  • you’re looking for practical steps for managing a phobia
  • your fear of an object or situation is negatively affecting your life
Boy in grey jumper with red watch

Know what phobias are

It’s normal to feel fear in response to a perceived threat – for example to be afraid of a giant spider or feel a bit wobbly when we stand on a high ledge. Some people, however, experience so much fear and anxiety about these situations and things that it affects their lives. To prevent these feelings, they often avoid the things they’re afraid of, even if it means missing out on enjoyable activities.

Look out for the signs of a phobia

Signs you may have a phobia include:

  • being excessively fearful of a situation or object on an ongoing basis
  • feeling an intense need to avoid or escape from the feared situation or object
  • experiencing panic or distress when exposed to the situation or object
  • some people with a phobia may also experience panic attacks.

Read about types of phobias

Phobias are divided into five categories, according to the object or situation. These include fear of:

  • animals (e.g. snakes, spides, dogs, insects)
  • the natural environment (e.g. heights, storms, water)
  • blood, injuries or injections (e.g. needles, wounds, medical procedures)
  • situations (e.g. aeroplanes, elevators, enclosed spaces)
  • other (e.g. choking or vomiting)

What are the treatments for phobias?

If you think you might suffer from a phobia, you should seek professional help. The most effective treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is based on

  • Education – learning about the symptoms of phobias and why they occur.
  • Changing thought patterns – identifying and re-framing unhelpful and unrealistic ways of thinking.
  • Changing behaviour – breaking the habit of avoiding the feared object or situation. In some cases of phobia, medication may also be effective. In addition to seeking professional help, consider trying some self-help tips for anxiety .

What can I do now?