Fears and phobias

Do you… ?

  • Feel afraid of certain objects or situations?
  • Does it make you worried or anxious?
  • Does it stop you from getting on with day to day life?
  • Are you afraid of dogs, cats, birds, spiders, insects, mice or other animals…?
  • Do you have an excessive fear of flying, small spaces, heights, seeing blood, having Injections, lifts, public transport, vomiting or choking…?
  • Are you afraid of something so unusual that you are embarrassed to tell people and feel alone because you don’t know anyone else with this condition?

What is a Specific Phobia?

Many of us may be afraid of certain things which we know are quite unlikely to harm us. A phobia is similar to this in that it is a fear of an object or situation that is not normally dangerous.   However it is different in that the fear provoked is extremely intense. This can cause a great deal of distress and severely restrict a person’s life, as someone with a phobia will go to great lengths to avoid what they fear. For example, a person with a dental phobia may totally avoid going to the dentist even though they are in severe pain. Someone with a bird phobia may find it extremely anxiety provoking to be outdoors. When someone has a phobia, even thinking about the feared object or situation, or seeing an image of it, can produce high levels of anxiety.


Phobias affect your body, your mind and the way you behave. The following are some of the most common symptoms experienced by people with phobias, and include many symptoms caused by the fight or flight response. Some people might experience all of these sensations, others just a few.

  • Feeling terrified, anxious, and/or disgusted
  • Heart pounding, beating fast or skipping a beat
  • Breathing changes: gulping air, breathing fast or shortness of breath
  • Pounding in your head
  • Numbness or tingling fingers, toes or lips
  • Feeling as though you can’t swallow, or feeling sick
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Feeling as if you are going to faint: wobbly legs
  • Muscle tension: to prepare for fight or flight
  • Sweating
  • Avoid situations or objects that make you feel afraid
  • Escape from the situation as soon as possible

People with a Blood Injection-Injury Phobia have symptoms that are slightly different from other phobias. Like other phobias, you show an initial increase in heart rate and blood pressure. However, unlike other phobias, this acceleration is followed by a quick drop which causes nausea, dizziness, and fainting. Although a fear of fainting is common in all specific phobias, blood-injection-injury phobia is the only phobia where actual fainting can occur.

How common is it?

Phobias are extremely common – it is estimated that around 1 in 4 people in the UK have some form of phobia.

What can I do about it?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended two main treatments for Specific Phobias; these are psychological therapy (Guided Self Help and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and medication. Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from one of these types of treatment or a combination of the two.

Guided self help will involve meeting with a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner who will guide you through techniques to help with phobias. Many simple phobias can be treated using a form of cognitive behaviour therapy known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. It involves being gradually exposed over a period of time to the feared object or situation, which can lead to a reduction in anxiety.

If you would like to know more about Guided Self Help or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, please contact us. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about a referral to our service.

Further Information

The organisations below may be able to offer you further support in dealing with your phobia.

Triumph over Phobia
P.O.Box 3760, Bath, BA2 3WY
Tel: 0845 600 9601

This is an organisation that runs groups nationwide. Groups are run by lay people and generally by ex-sufferers. They follow structured self-treatment self exposure programmes. A local group runs in the evenings, to join contact Triumph over Phobia on the above number.

Anxiety UK
Zion CRC, 339 Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester M15 4ZY
Tel: 08444 775 774

This is a nationwide counselling organisation with a specialism in phobias.

Acknowledgement of references