According to the DSM-IV, Specific Phobia is a marked and persistent fear of specific objects or situations. Exposure to that stimulus almost always provokes anxiety. This reaction may resemble a panic attack, which has symptoms such as heightened heart rate, sweating, hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing) and feelings of terror and helplessness.
Adolescents and adults usually recognize that this fear is excessive or unreasonable. This often results in avoidance of the feared stimulus, although sometimes it can be endured with great discomfort. This diagnosis only applies if the avoidance or anticipation anxiety interferes in the person's daily functioning or holding a job, their social life, or if they are distressed about having the phobia.
The subtypes of specific phobia are:
- Animal type (such as snakes, spiders, dogs)
- Natural environment type (such as heights)
- Blood-injection-injury type (such as blood, wounds, hypodermic needles or medical procedures)
- Situational type (such as driving, flying, bridges, and a child's fear of school)
- Other type (such as contracting an illness, loud sounds)
The Institute treats specific phobias using Exposure Response Prevention Therapy and cognitive components implemented through talk therapy, writing exercises, loop tapes and narratives, customized for the phobia of the individual patient.
Source: Page 444, DSM-IV, Year 2005, American Psychiatric Association
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