Specific phobias are circumscribed fears of specific objects, situations, or activities. The syndrome has three components: an anticipatory anxiety that is brought on by the possibility of confrontation with the phobic stimulus, the central fear itself, and the avoidance behavior by which the individual minimizes anxiety. In specific phobia, the fear is usually not of the object itself but of some dire outcome that the individual believes may result from contact with that object. For example, persons with driving phobia are afraid of accidents; those with snake phobia, that they will be bitten; and those who are claustrophobic, that they will suffocate or be trapped in an enclosed space. These fears are excessive, unreasonable, and enduring; although most individuals with specific phobias will readily acknowledge that they know there is really nothing to be afraid of, reassuring them of this does not diminish their fear.

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Table Reference Number
TABLE 12–22. DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for specific phobia


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