Specific Phobias

  • Ellen I. KochEmail author
  • Michelle A. Fernando


Specific phobias are characterized by immediate, intense, and irrational fear when confronted with a particular object or situation [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013]. When confronting the feared stimulus, the individual experiences an automatic physiological reaction that may include increased heart rate, sweating, and fainting in some cases (Fyer, 1998). As a result of this aversive reaction, an individual with specific phobia actively avoids situations that may involve the feared stimulus (DSM-5, APA, 2013). Avoidance behaviors can vary in severity and intrusiveness, ranging from taking a different work commute to refusing lifesaving medical treatment, e.g., claustrophobia leading to an inability to have a CT scan. Such behaviors are usually linked to escape from the stimulus, but if contact is unpreventable, avoidance behaviors such as diverting eye contact (Tolin, Lohr, Lee, & Sawchuk, 1999), distraction (Craske, Street, Jayaraman, & Barlow, 1991), or safety signals (Telch, 1994) may also serve to decrease fear. Generally, an individual with specific phobia experiences intense fear when confronting a specific object or situation and often exhibits avoidance behaviors to prevent or cope with this fear.


Specific phobia Animal phobia Blood injury injection phobia Natural phobia Situational phobia Behavioral approach test Applied tension Exposure therapy In vivo exposure Virtual reality Cognitive therapy 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA

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