Phobia is a type of mental illness and anxiety disorder that causes extreme, irrational fear and suffering for patients. It causes patients to experience excessive fear of a situation, a place, a living creature, or an object that is unlikely to cause any harm.

Women are more likely to suffer from phobia than men. It often develops during childhood or adolescence; it is unlikely for phobias to appear after thirties. Most phobias appear after a stressful situation, an intimidating incident, or if a family member also suffers from phobia. Common phobia symptoms include nausea, excessive sweating, increased heart rate (tachycardia), shaking, dry mouth, blurred vision, and staring at the source of fear.

The Chemistry of the Phobic Brain

Some areas of the brain store dangerous and life-threatening events and recall them over and over again. As a result, when the person faces a similar situation, the cells of these areas retrieve those stressful memories, causing the body to produce the same reaction. Phobia symptoms are linked to the amygdala in the brain; it is located right behind the pituitary gland. Once a stored memory is retrieved, the amygdala can release the hormones that are responsible for the fight-or-flight response, leaving the body in a state of constant alert and stress.

Types of Phobia

There are so many recorded types of phobia so far. Some are quite outrageous, such as papyrophobia (fear of paper), venustraphobia (fear of pretty women), coulrophobia (fear of clowns), and octophobia (fear of the number 8). There are so many unjustified, yet real, phobias that require psychiatric interference.

Scientists have listed multiple classifications for phobias, the most common of which classifies phobias into three primary categories. The first category is Social Phobia, where the patient fears social events, being judged by others, or being humiliated in front of people. The second category is Simple or Specific Phobia, where the patient has one specific fear, such as pyrophobia, which is the fear of fire. The third category is Agoraphobia, where the patient fears a situation that he/she cannot escape from. Agoraphobia does not necessarily refer to open spaces; it can also refer to closed places, such as an elevator or public transportation.

In another classification, there are four subtypes of the three previously mentioned categories; these are:

  1. Zoophobia, or fear of animals, such as spiders, reptiles, horses, dogs, or bacteria.
  2. Situational phobias, such as fear of flying, public speaking, or closed spaces.
  3. Biophobia, or fear of nature, such as trees, water, lightning, or any other feature of nature.
  4. Fear of medical procedures: These involve dental fear, fear of needles, and fear of blood.

Phobia is a treatable disease. The fact that phobic patients are aware of their problem makes it easier for them to get diagnosed and treated. Many phobic patients see a psychiatrist who decides the appropriate treatment method for their case. Phobia treatment could involve medications, psychological support sessions, behavioral therapy, or a combination of all that. On the other hand, some individuals decide to neglect the whole problem and choose to avoid the source of their phobia. From their point of view, there is no need for a psychiatrist as long as everything is under control.


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