High bridges, new places, or old elevators may make us a bit uneasy or even frightened. We might try to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, but most people generally manage to control their fears and carry out daily activities without incident.
But people with specific phobias, or strong irrational fear reactions, work hard to avoid common places, situations, or objects even though they know there's no threat or danger. The fear may not make any sense, but they feel powerless to stop it.
People who experience these seemingly excessive and unreasonable fears in the presence of or in anticipation of a specific object, place, or situation have a specific phobia.
Having phobias can disrupt daily routines, limit work efficiency, reduce self-esteem, and place a strain on relationships because people will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable and often-terrifying feelings of phobic anxiety.
While some phobias develop in childhood, most seem to arise unexpectedly, usually during adolescence or early adulthood. Their onset is usually sudden, and they may occur in situations that previously did not cause any discomfort or anxiety.
Specific phobias commonly focus on animals, insects, germs, heights, thunder, driving, public transportation, flying, dental or medical procedures, and elevators.
Although people with phobias realize that their fear is irrational, even thinking about it can often cause extreme anxiety.
Updated December 2015