Specific phobia is a major anxiety disorder and is characterized by the extreme fear of a particular object or situation. The fear stimulus is avoided at all costs, and if it can’t be avoided, then the feared object or situation is endured with intense anxiety, or may even induce a panic attack. So you may be fearful of specific situations, like a fear of heights, fear of flying, or fear of bridges. Or you may be fearful of living creatures, like dogs, snakes, or spiders. You might have medically-related phobias, like fear of needles, fear of getting a shot, or a fear of blood.
Specific phobia is a common anxiety disorder. However, only a minority of those affected receive treatment. Specific phobia usually starts in childhood, and lasts a long time. So this is a chronic anxiety disorder, and the anxiety associated with the feared stimulus is strategically avoided by the sufferer by just avoiding the feared stimulus. The problem is that when you do have an unexpected exposure to your feared stimulus, then it could lead to a panic attack, and this is detrimental and distressing. In addition, many people who have specific phobia have multiple fears, so the chances of being exposed to one of your fears are increased with the more fears you have. In addition, if you continue to use the maladaptive coping of avoiding your fears, the anxiety just continues and gets worse. This is because when you don’t face your fears, you don’t get a chance to witness that the thoughts you had about the feared object are not entirely true. Also, when you avoid your feared stimulus, you don’t get to witness that the anxiety naturally goes away on its own when you are exposed to your feared stimulus. The good news is there are effective treatments to address specific phobia.