Specific phobia is a great fright or fear of certain things or phenomena that is not in accordance with that which creates fright or fear. This is called a phobia, but in everyday speech that word is often used for fear that is much milder than an actual phobia. Common examples of specific phobia are phobia against spiders, dogs, wasps, vomiting, elevators, airplanes, storms or being high up. People with a phobia try to avoid these phenomena to the best of their ability or endure through them with great anxiety, fear or distress. As an example, a person with a phobia of wasps may find it difficult to stay outside during the summer, keep all windows closed, avoid going camping or any situation where there might be wasps. Therefore, there is a big difference between being uncomfortable with being close to wasps and having a phobia for them, although the former example is often mistakenly called a phobia.
The symptoms of anxiety that are common in a specific phobia are rapid heartbeat, increased sweating and feeling like you are unable to move. Furthermore, some people experience a panic attack when they see what they fear. In specific phobia, a vicious circle is formed in which an avoidance behaviour (for example, not going out in summer, never getting close to dogs or never going on an elevator) sustains the anxiety and even increases it over time. By avoiding the circumstances or the phenomena, people feel a relief for a short period of time but the worries and fears are still present. If people manage to stay in the situation, they usually realise that there is nothing to fear and the anxiety decreases slowly. Thus, a person with mild anxiety that is somewhat similar to specific phobia, e.g. fear of spiders, can minimise anxiety by being around spiders and getting used to being close to them. People often need help in reducing anxiety, especially if anxiety and fear have become so great that specific phobia is present. The treatment for specific phobia is fairly simple and often only a few sessions with a psychologist are needed to overcome it.