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Specific Phobias

Fears as well as intense feelings of disgust occur in specific phobias. These feelings are related to the proximity of certain animals (e.g. spiders or snakes), heights, thunder, darkness, going by airplane, closed rooms, going to the dentist, or the sight of blood or injuries.

In case an affected person finds itself in such a situation or is confronted with the specific object, physical stress reactions (e.g. trembling, sweating, raise in heart rate, etc.) occurr along with worst fears and fright which may increase to panic. The fact that the situation or the object is not harmful in general or is not being feared by others does not lower the fear of the affected person!

A central characteristic of specific phobias is the avoidance behaviour of affected people, even if this behaviour leads to severe cutbacks in terms of mobility, quality of life, or leads to health issues. An example would be a spider phobic person not going by car because spiders could be inside the car. Dental treatment phobics do not go to the dentist anymore, even if they already experience intense pain which often leads to bad oral hygiene.

Screening Questions

  • Do you experience intense fear or disgust when confronted with specific situations or objects?
  • Do you think your fear is actually exaggerated or irrational?
  • Do you feel physical signs of these emotions (e.g. intense sweating, shivering, nausea)
  • Do you avoid the situation or object you are afraid of?
  • Does your avoidance behaviour lead to cutbacks in terms of mobility or your daily routine?
  • Do you suffer from the consequences of your fear and the fear itself?


Univ.-Prof. Dr.rer.nat.

Anne Schienle

Phone:+43 316 380 - 5086

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