A phobia is an excessive fear of something that is usually harmless. This fear can arise when faced with certain situations, being in a place, or when seeing certain animals and objects.

Phobias are included in the condition of anxiety disorders . People with phobias will usually try to avoid situations and objects that can trigger fear, or try to deal with them while holding back fear and anxiety.

Causes of Phobias

Phobias can be caused by a variety of things. Based on the type of fear that arises, phobias can be divided into two types, namely:

Specific phobia

Specific phobia is the fear of a specific object, animal, situation or activity. This phobia usually appears in childhood or adolescence.

Examples of specific phobias are the phobia of heights, the phobia of going to the dentist, the phobia of spiders, trypophobia or the phobia of blood.

Complex phobia

Complex phobias usually develop in adulthood. This type of phobia is often related to fear and anxiety about certain situations or conditions.

Complex phobias are divided into two types, namely:

  • Agoraphobia
    Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a place or situation that makes it difficult for the sufferer to escape, or in certain situations that will make it difficult for him to get help.
  • Social
    phobia Social phobia is the fear of appearing in certain social situations. For example, sufferers may be afraid of speaking in front of a crowd so they don't dare to speak in public.

Phobia risk factors

There are several factors that are thought to trigger the risk of developing a phobia, namely:

  • Experiencing a certain incident or trauma, for example being afraid to get on a plane due to having experienced turbulence on an airplane
  • Having family members who have certain phobias, such as a phobia of spiders
  • Suffer from a mental disorder, such as schizophrenia , depression, OCD , panic disorder, PTSD ( post-traumatic stress disorder ), or generalized anxiety disorder
  • Having parents who are too protective ( over protective ) or have a less close relationship with parents
  • Experiencing stress in the long term reduces the ability to overcome fear that arises in certain situations or conditions
  • Suffer from another condition, such as alcoholism , brain damage from a head injury , or if you have ever abused drugs

Symptoms of Phobias

Phobias can cause physical and mental symptoms due to excessive fear when seeing or holding the feared object. Symptoms can also appear when the sufferer is in a situation that triggers the phobia.

Physical symptoms that can appear include:

  • Dizziness or headache
  • The neck feels suffocated
  • Heart palpitations ( palpitations )
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Body shaking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hard to breathe
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Difficult to speak clearly
  • Ears ringing
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urge to urinate

While mental symptoms that can appear are:

  • Excessive fear and anxiety
  • Bewildered
  • Crying
  • Fear of being left alone, especially in children
  • Loss of control to distinguish reality (dissociation)

When to see a doctor

Check with your doctor if you have a phobia, especially when the phobia interferes with productivity and daily activities, whether at school, work, or socially.

Check with your doctor if your phobia makes you avoid certain situations or places, feels very afraid, anxious, panicked, or if the phobia has been going on for 6 months or more.

If you experience a traumatic event, consult a doctor for direction and treatment. That way, the traumatic event does not cause further mental disorders.

Phobia Diagnosis

To diagnose a phobia, the doctor will conduct questions and answers about the patient's complaints, the patient's and family's medical history, as well as a history of traumatic events that the patient has experienced.

After that, the doctor will carry out a physical examination to find out whether the symptoms the patient is experiencing are caused by certain diseases.

To make a diagnosis of a phobia, the doctor will use the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  (DSM-5) criteria. A person can be said to have a phobia of something if he has the following criteria:

  • Having an excessive and persistent fear of certain objects or situations
  • Feeling anxious and afraid when faced with a particular object or situation
  • Make an effort to avoid the object or situation that triggers the fear
  • Experiencing significant impairment in social relationships due to fear of certain objects or situations
  • Have phobic symptoms that have lasted 6 months or more

Phobia Treatment

Phobia treatment aims to improve the quality of life while helping patients to control their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to situations and conditions that can trigger phobias. Some treatment methods that can be done to overcome phobias are:


Counseling with psychologists and psychiatrists is an effective way to overcome phobias. Some types of psychotherapy that can be done are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    This therapy can help patients change their perspective and attitude towards feared situations or objects. This therapy aims to make patients more confident and think more positively.
  • Desensitization
    therapy This therapy is carried out by slowly exposing the patient to the feared situation or object. The goal is to gradually reduce the patient's fear.


Medications are used to quickly treat the symptoms that occur with the phobia. The drugs used are:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to relieve anxiety disorders and improve mood
  • Beta blockers ( beta blockers ), to treat symptoms due to panic, such as irregular heartbeat
  • Benzodiapines , to treat severe anxiety disorders

Self-help program

This program aims to help patients overcome their phobia symptoms on their own. This program consists of:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep , eating nutritious foods, and reducing or avoiding the consumption of foods and drinks that contain caffeine
  • Relaxation , such as practicing breathing techniques, to help the patient relax more when dealing with phobic triggers
  • Visualization, to help patients overcome their phobias by imagining positive things when facing situations and objects that trigger phobias
  • Join a group of people with phobias, to share ways to overcome their phobias

Phobia complications

Phobias that are not treated can affect the lives of sufferers. As a result, sufferers can experience complications in the form of:

  • Social isolation, namely when sufferers avoid places or things that trigger phobias so that social relations are disrupted
  • Mood disorders, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or depression
  • Drug abuse or alcohol addiction, wanting to escape reality and avoid phobias
  • Killed himself because he couldn't stand the phobia

Phobia Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent phobias. However, the following things you can do if you experienced a traumatic event, or saw or felt something that caused anxiety:

  • Share stories with family, friends, or psychologists about things that cause anxiety or trauma
  • Change the mindset to be more positive and see something that has been feared so far more objectively
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