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What are Phobias?
Phobias are anxiety disorders characterized by excessive and unjustified fears about things or circumstances that provide little actual risk yet cause anxiety and avoidance. As opposed to the fleeting anxiety you might experience before giving a speech or taking a test, phobias are long-lasting, produce strong physical and psychological reactions, and can impair your ability to conduct yourself normally.1
In the United States, phobias are among the most prevalent mental illnesses. A specific phobia will affect around 12.5% of Americans in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH).2 These phobias usually start in childhood or adolescence and last into adulthood. Additionally, twice as many women are affected compared to men.3
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identifies three distinct categories of phobias:
- Social phobias: Also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD), these phobias are characterized by a fear of being criticized or embarrassed in social circumstances.
- Agoraphobia: This phobia is characterized by an intense and unreasonable dread of being in situations from which it is impossible to leave. It could encompass anxiety about being among a lot of people or even leaving one’s house.
- Specific phobias: When individuals mention a specific phobia, such as a fear of snakes, spiders, or needles, they are referring to this type of phobia.
- Within specific phobias, there are five types, as categorized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-5):4
- Natural/environment type: Phobias related to nature, weather, and environmental events or situations are quite common. For instance, people can develop a fear of thunder and lightning (known as astraphobia) or water (aquaphobia).
- Injury type: Some people experience fear linked to the possibility of physical harm or injury. Such fears may include a fear of visiting the dentist, known as dentophobia, or a fear of receiving injections, which is trypanophobia.
- Animal type: Many people have specific fears related to animals or insects. These fears may include cynophobia (fear of dogs), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), or entomophobia (fear of insects).
- Situational type: This phobia is characterized by fears that arise from specific situations, such as the fear of washing (ablutophobia) and enclosed spaces (claustrophobia).
- Other types: This category includes fears that don’t fit the other four types. Examples may include a fear of dolls, vomiting, or loud sounds.
- Within specific phobias, there are five types, as categorized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-5):4
Some other common types of phobias include the following:
- Arachnophobia – Fear of spiders
- Acrophobia – Fear of heights
- Aerophobia – Fear of flying
- Mysophobia – Fear of germs, dirt, and contaminants
Phobias bring on physical, emotional, and behavioral problems. Typical signs include:5
- Chest discomfort or stiffness
- Cold or hot flashes
- Feeling of choking
- Having trouble breathing
- Dry mouth
- Higher blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
Along with these physical signs, individuals may also feel dread, impending doom, fear of losing control, or even a sense of death. People with phobias may avoid any situation where they might come into contact with the object of their fear to prevent these emotions.
Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.
Causes & Triggers of Phobias
According to research, phobias may develop due to genetic and environmental reasons. A particularly unpleasant initial experience with the feared object or situation has been connected to some phobias.6 Mental health professionals are unsure if this initial interaction is required or if phobias can manifest in persons predisposed to them.7
Many phobias arise from a traumatic event or panic episode connected to a particular thing or circumstance. Furthermore, changes in brain physiology might contribute to the emergence of specific phobias.
The following factors may increase your risk of specific phobias:
- Your age. Specific phobias can first appear during childhood, usually around 10, but can also occur later in life.
- Your relatives. You are more likely to develop a particular phobia or anxiety if someone in your family already has one. Children may pick up specific phobias by seeing a phobic family member react to an object or a scenario, or this might be a genetic propensity.
- Your temperament.8 If you are particularly sensitive, inhibited, or negative, your level of risk for developing phobias may be higher than average.
- A negative experience. A specific phobia may arise as a result of going through a terrifying, traumatic incident, such as being trapped in an elevator or being attacked by an animal.
- Learning about negative experiences. Hearing about negative information or experiences, such as plane crashes, can lead to developing a specific phobia.
Furthermore, certain mental disorders can predispose someone to phobias. For example, phobias are a type of anxiety disorder, and individuals with other anxiety disorders or mood disorders are more likely to develop phobias.
In addition, individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may be more likely to develop specific phobias. Similarly, individuals with panic disorder may be more likely to develop agoraphobia, which is a fear of being in places or situations where escaping might be challenging.
Phobias also frequently occur alongside other mental health conditions, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder.9
When to Seek Help for Phobias
If you are struggling to manage your phobia or it’s significantly impacting your daily life, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist. They can work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs and help you learn strategies to manage your phobia(s).
Here are some general points for when it’s time to seek phobia treatment:
- If your phobia is causing significant distress or impairment in your daily life, such as avoiding social situations or places, affecting your work or relationships, or causing considerable anxiety
- If your phobia is interfering with your ability to perform essential tasks or activities, such as attending school, going to work, or taking care of yourself or others
- If your phobia is causing you to experience physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, or panic attacks
- If you find yourself constantly worrying or obsessing about your phobia or avoiding situations where you might be exposed to it
- If you have tried self-help strategies, such as relaxation techniques, but they haven’t been effective in reducing your phobia
- If your phobia is causing you to experience depression, substance abuse, or other mental health issues
Phobia Therapy Treatment Costs & Insurance Coverage
The most effective treatment for phobias will depend on the individual and their specific needs. A mental health professional can help determine the best course of treatment for you. There are several phobia treatments and therapies available. Here are some of the most common:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs contributing to a phobia. You can learn to replace these thoughts with more positive and realistic ones through CBT.
- Exposure Therapy: This therapy involves gradually exposing you to the object or situation you fear in a controlled and safe environment. The goal is to help you overcome your fear by demonstrating how the feared object or situation is not as dangerous as initially thought.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR involves guiding you to recall a traumatic memory or feared situation while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, such as eye movements, sounds, or taps. This is believed to help reprocess the traumatic memory or feared situation and reduce the intensity of your emotional response to it.
- Medication: Certain medications, such as anti-anxiety medications and beta-blockers, can help reduce the physical symptoms associated with phobias. However, medication is usually not the first line of treatment and is typically used in conjunction with phobia therapy.
- Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Mindfulness-based therapies can help you learn to manage anxiety and reduce the impact of phobia on your daily life.
Experienced psychotherapists who specialize in the treatment for phobias should have a graduate degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. They should also have a Tennessee state license to practice and additional training and certification in evidence-based treatments for phobias. These qualifications ensure that the therapist has the knowledge and skills to treat phobias effectively.
Working with a therapist can be significantly helpful if you’re struggling with a phobia. They can offer you emotional support and encouragement throughout the treatment process and help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that might contribute to your fear. As you face your fears, your therapist will be there to provide guidance and support. In addition, they’ll help you develop coping strategies and teach you techniques to manage anxiety and panic attacks.
Another benefit of working with a therapist is that they can monitor your progress throughout treatment. They’ll be able to see how you’re doing and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan to ensure you’re getting the most out of your sessions. In addition, your therapist will provide you with feedback and support as you work to overcome your phobia.
The process of phobia therapy can vary depending on the specific type of therapy being used and your particular needs. However, some common elements are typically involved in phobia therapy. Here’s a general overview of what to expect in therapy for phobias:
- Assessment: The therapist usually starts with an evaluation to identify the type and severity of the phobia and any underlying factors that may be causing it.
- Education: The therapist will inform you about your phobia and the available treatment options. Additionally, they may explain the physiological and psychological aspects of anxiety and fear.
- Developing a Treatment Plan: The therapist will create a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs and preferences. This may involve one or more evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
- Therapy Sessions: The therapist will help you with your treatment plan throughout the therapy sessions. This includes learning coping strategies, challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, and gradually facing the object or situation you fear in a safe and controlled environment.
- Homework: During the period between therapy sessions, the therapist might recommend homework assignments, like practicing coping techniques or exposure exercises. These assignments will assist you in maintaining progress outside of therapy sessions.
- Monitoring Progress: During the treatment process, the therapist will keep track of your progress and make changes to the treatment plan if necessary. This could mean altering the exposure exercises or scheduling therapy sessions more or less frequently.
Phobia Therapy Treatment Costs & Insurance Coverage
The cost of counseling for phobias can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the therapist, the type of therapy being used, the severity of your phobia, and the duration of treatment. The following are average costs, though they may vary by location and other factors and may not reflect the actual cost of what you’ll pay in Tennessee.
For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions typically cost between $100 and $200 per session.10 In addition, EMDR therapy costs between $100 and $250 per hour or session. Since multiple sessions are needed for optimal results, the final cost can range from $800 to $2,000.11
Many insurance plans cover mental health services, including therapy for phobias. Still, the amount of coverage and the out-of-pocket costs will depend on your individual policy. Therefore, verifying your benefits is important to determine the specific coverage and costs associated with mental health services.
Athena Care has multiple mental health clinics in Tennessee, open Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We’re also in-network with most major insurance policies. One of our expert care coordinators would be happy to verify your insurance benefits for you.
Call us at (615) 320-1155 or complete our confidential, no-obligation online form. A care coordinator will reach out to review the details of your policy and explain your options for phobia treatment.
Prioritize your mental health and seek the support and treatment you need to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Treatment Success & Outlook for Phobias
The duration and frequency of phobia therapy vary depending on your requirements and the type of therapy you’re undergoing. Typically, phobia treatment is a short-term treatment lasting from a few weeks to several months. The primary objective of phobia therapy is to assist you in managing your symptoms, reducing the effect of your phobia on your daily life, and ultimately conquering your fear.
The success of phobia treatment depends on many factors, including your willingness to participate in treatment, the therapist’s skill and expertise, and the effectiveness of the treatment approach. Overall, the outlook for phobia treatment is generally positive, with many individuals experiencing significant symptom relief and improved quality of life with evidence-based therapies.
Effective phobia treatment can be measured by a reduction in anxiety symptoms, such as decreased frequency or intensity of panic attacks and reduced fear and physical symptoms. In addition, coping skills can be developed through relaxation techniques, support networks, or mindfulness. Finally, successful phobia treatment should improve your quality of life and allow you to engage in previously difficult activities.
If you’re unsure whether your phobia treatment is working, it’s essential to talk to your therapist about your concerns. Your therapist can help you assess your progress and adjust your treatment plan to ensure you get the support and care you need.
Below are a few successful phobia treatment outcome stats:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is widely used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it’s also helpful in treating phobias and other mental health issues.12
- Some data indicate that EMDR may be beneficial for phobias of flying or the dentist, regardless of whether the phobia is linked to PTSD. But more research is required.
- Augmented Reality Exposure Therapy (ARET) has effectively treated certain disorders, like PTSD. It is currently being researched as an effective treatment for phobias.13
- In vivo exposure, a specific type of exposure therapy, entails facing your fear in real life (i.e., someone afraid of spiders will interact with a spider). It seems to be the most effective treatment for many phobias, according to a 2020 research study. According to some research, 80 to 90% of individuals reacted favorably to this phobia treatment.14
- According to a study conducted in 2019, six individuals who stutter experienced significant reductions in their social anxiety after exposure therapy. The positive changes persisted for the most part, even after six months.15
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for social phobia. It is associated with significant improvements in symptoms, social functioning, and quality of life.16
- Medication is more commonly used when treating social phobia and agoraphobia than for specific phobias.17
- Studies have shown that the beta-blocker propranolol (Inderal) effectively treats social, dental, and animal-type phobias.18
- “Specific Phobias – Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, 19 Oct. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/symptoms-causes/syc-20355156.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Specific Phobia.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia. Accessed 4 May 2023.
- Wardenaar, Klaas J., et al. “The Cross-national Epidemiology of Specific Phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys.” Psychological Medicine, vol. 47, no. 10, Cambridge UP, Feb. 2017, pp. 1744–60. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291717000174.
- Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Specific Phobias (Symptoms).” Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/phobias_symptoms.html. Accessed 4 May 2023.
- “Symptoms.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/specific-phobias/symptoms. Accessed 4 May 2023.
- Van Houtem, C. M. H. H., et al. “A Review and Meta-analysis of the Heritability of Specific Phobia Subtypes and Corresponding Fears.” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol. 27, no. 4, Elsevier BV, May 2013, pp. 379–88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2013.04.007.
- The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. “Phobias.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/phobias. Accessed 4 May 2023.
- Fox, Nathan A., and Daniel S. Pine. “Temperament and the Emergence of Anxiety Disorders.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 51, no. 2, Elsevier BV, Feb. 2012, pp. 125–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2011.10.006.
- Association, None British Medical. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Psychiatry Online, May 2013, https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.
- Lauretta, Ashley. “How Much Does Therapy Cost?” edited by Alena Hall, Forbes Health, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/how-much-does-therapy-cost/
- “How Much Does EMDR Therapy Cost?” HowMuchIsIt.Org, 2018, https://www.howmuchisit.org/emdr-therapy-cost/
- Valiente-Gómez, Alicia, et al. “EMDR Beyond PTSD: A Systematic Literature Review.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, Frontiers Media, Sept. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01668.
- Albakri, Ghaida, et al. “Phobia Exposure Therapy Using Virtual and Augmented Reality: A Systematic Review.” Applied Sciences, vol. 12, no. 3, MDPI, Feb. 2022, p. 1672. https://doi.org/10.3390/app12031672.
- Thng, Christabel, et al. “Recent Developments in the Intervention of Specific Phobia Among Adults: A Rapid Review.” F1000Research, vol. 9, Faculty of 1000, Mar. 2020, p. 195. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.20082.1.
- Scheurich, Jennifer A., et al. “Exposure Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder in People Who Stutter: An Exploratory Multiple Baseline Design.” Journal of Fluency Disorders, vol. 59, Elsevier BV, Mar. 2019, pp. 21–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfludis.2018.12.001.
- [xvi] Feske, Ulrike, and Dianne L. Chambless. “Cognitive Behavioral Versus Exposure Only Treatment for Social Phobia: A Meta-analysis.” Behavior Therapy, vol. 26, no. 4, Elsevier BV, Sept. 1995, pp. 695–720. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0005-7894(05)80040-1.
- Canton, John N., et al. “Optimal Treatment of Social Phobia: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Dove Medical Press, May 2012, p. 203. https://doi.org/10.2147/ndt.s23317.
- Steenen, S. A., et al. “Propranolol for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 30, no. 2, SAGE Publishing, Feb. 2016, pp. 128–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881115612236.
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