Fear is a universal emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives (Canu, 2008). While it is common and normal to be scared of some things, some responses are abnormal and may result in significant anxiety (Canu, 2008). Lang and McTeague (2009) define a fear state as a defense system activation and the bodily reaction that occurs as a result. According to Jongh, Oord, and Broeke (2002), specific phobias are the most prevalent form of psychiatric disorders that are defined by fear. However, a wide variety of interventions and treatments are available for specific phobias (Jongh, Oord, & Broeke, 2002).
What Is a Specific Phobia?
According to Kerig, Ludlow, and Wenar (2012), a specific phobia is a persistent, excessive, or unreasonable fear that is caused by a specific object or situation. Some examples of common phobias include fear of water, fear of flying and even school phobia (Kerig et al., 2012). Lang and McTeague (2009) describe fearfulness as an exaggerated response to environmental cues. However, individuals with specific phobias are usually the most reactive. When a feared situation is described, an individual with the specific phobia may display physical defenses such as muscle tension and increased heart rate (Lang & McTeague, 2009).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), several criteria must be present in order for a fear to be considered a specific phobia. The first criteria state that an individual must exhibit a fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation such as heights or needles. However, another criteria states that the object or situation must always cause immediate feelings of fear and anxiety for the individual (DSM-V, 2013). More criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) express that the fear and anxiety must be out of proportion when compared to the actual danger and the fear, anxiety, or avoidance must persist for at least 6 months. The final requirements for an individual to be diagnosed with a specific phobia is that the fear or anxiety must cause significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning and the disturbances are not caused by any other disorder (DSM-V, 2013).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Disorder, 2013) classifies specific phobias into five distinct categories. These categories include the animal type, natural environment type, blood-injection-injury type, situational type such as fear of elevators and the other types such as fears of sounds or fear of choking (DSM-V, 2013). The average person with a specific phobia usually fears at least 3 different objects or situations, but the amount of fear experienced may vary for each situation (DSM-V, 2013).
It is completely normal for people to develop fears and anxieties. The prevalence rate of specific...