Signs and symptoms of specific phobias
Our minds are supposed to warn us of dangers. This is how we stay safe.
Example: Healthy fear of heights vs phobia of heights
If you’re standing at the edge of a cliff with no railing and think, “Careful, I might fall!”, that’s a healthy fear. Your heart might race a little, you might feel a little shaky. You step back from the edge and you start to feel
If you have a phobia of heights, however, you might see that same cliff on TV and feel your heart start to race. You know you’re physically safe - a long way away from the cliff. But you can’t control your thoughts, emotions and body, which
are all telling you to run away.
You may have a specific phobia if:
- you have the following symptoms, and
- the symptoms have lasted for 6 months or more.
Do you have a persistent, excessive and unreasonable fear?
Is your fear healthy and keeping you safe? If it’s excessive, unreasonable or doesn’t go away, it may be a phobia.
Specific phobias are often associated with panic attacks. A panic attack is when you’re overwhelmed by physical sensations like:
- pounding heart or chest pain
- nausea or choking
- faintness or dizziness
- hot or cold flushes and sweating.
Do you avoid situations so you don’t have to face your fear?
You might avoid:
- walking down a street where there might be a dog
- travelling by plane
- getting vaccinated (if you fear injections)
- turning out the lights (if you fear the darkness).
Is your fear affecting your ability to live your life?
Feeling anxious or avoiding specific situations or objects can make it hard to live your everyday life.
- find it hard to go to work because you have to drive over a bridge
- not do well at school because you’re extremely anxious about exams
- avoid going to the doctor because you’re scared of injections.