Marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).

Exposure to the phobic stimulus invariably provokes fear.

The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable.

The phobic situation is avoided or endured with distress.

The phobia is problematic for the person.


One in 9 people will suffer from a specific phobia at some point in their life.


Changing thoughts:

People with specific phobias sometimes hold erroneous beliefs about the stimulus they fear. For instance, someone with a fear of flying may grossly overestimate the probability of a plane crash, or someone with a fear of bees may overestimate the probability of being stung and/or of having a life-threatening reaction to the sting. These faulty beliefs need correction.

Changing behaviors:

People with phobias avoid the stimulus they fear.
The core treatment component is systematic de-sensitization, in-vivo whenever possible and if not then in imagination.

For instance, for a needle phobia, these steps may be followed: look at a picture of a syringe without a needle, manipulate a syringe without a needle, look at a picture of a syringe with a needle, look at a picture and then a video of an injection, etc.

The phobic client learns to remain calm while being exposed to a phobic situation, and the next step is initiated only when the current step elicits little anxiety.

Selected Book References

The anxiety and phobia workbook, third edition.
Edmund Bourne, Ph.D. (2000).
New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 1-57224-223-X