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A specific phobia may be present if an individual strongly fears a specific stimulus that tends to be external to oneself (but may sometimes be internal). Phobias are grouped into four clusters, depending on the feared stimulus, namely:

  • Animal Type (spiders, snakes, birds, dogs, insects)
  • Natural Environment Type (heights, water, storms)
  • Blood-Injection-Injury Type (injections, needles, blood)
  • Situational Type (enclosed spaces, flying, lifts, driving, bridges)
  • Other Type (vomiting, choking, contracting an illness)

An individual with a phobia would tend to respond with a great deal of anxiety in response to the stimulus and would then tend to avoid the stimulus or other situations that may resemble it or carry a higher risk of exposure to it.

Phobias are probably the most common of the anxiety disorders but are also some of the most easily treatable conditions. Many phobias may even be treated successfully with one or two sessions of in-vivo exposure (Choy, Fyer, Lipsitz, 2007). Treatment entails a significant amount of education and in-vivo exposure. Cognitive therapy and interoceptive exposure tend to assist as useful adjuncts to treatment. Interoceptive exposure is helpful with claustrophobia and virtual exposure is most often used with flying phobia. Most other phobias require in-vivo exposure. Specific blood pressure enhancing techniques are required for those planning in-vivo exposure to a blood-injection type of phobia because of the strong vasovagal response associated with this phobia.


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