Phobias are irrational, persistent and extreme fears of certain situations, activities, or objects that pose little or no actual danger. A few of the most common ones are dogs, closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, water, driving, bugs, flying, and blood. Exposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a panic attack. The phobia typically leads to the avoidance of the feared object or situation. Phobias are very common, tend to begin abruptly and be persistent unless treated. The National Institute of Mental Health has reported that 5.1%-12.5% of Americans suffer from phobias.
Research has shown that phobias respond well to cognitive behavior therapy. In CBT patients learn anxiety management techniques and new ways of viewing and coping with the phobias. Through gradual, systematic and repeated exposure to the phobia, patients learn to habituate to it as the anxiety dissipates. A great emphasis is placed on developing a sense of mastery and control over thoughts and feelings.