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A phobia is the overwhelming and irrational fear of a situation, item, person or place that is typically harmless. When someone has a phobia the fear is so extreme that they may experience heart palpitations, excess sweating, nervousness and anxiety attacks. There are hundreds of phobias ranging from common fears such as those of spiders to the unusual such as the fear of fear itself. There are basically two forms of phobias, specific and social.
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Fear of Spiders
The fear of spiders is known as arachnophobia and is a specific phobia. When someone suffers with arachnophobia, they will panic when they encounter the spider and in the majority of situations the spider must be removed by someone else. The extent of this phobia can vary from a mild form to extreme fear in which the person may have a panic attack. When the fear is extreme, simply seeing a picture of a spider may induce a panic attack.
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Fear of Dogs
Having a fear of dogs is referred to as cynophobia and falls into the category of a specific phobia. The majority of cynophobes most likely had a traumatic experience during their childhood involving a dog. It could have been something as minor as a dog jumping on them or it could have been more serious such as being bitten by a dog. Someone with an extreme fear of dogs will avoid encounters with canines at all costs, for example a jogger will take a different route to avoid a neighborhood dog.
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Fear of Needles
Trypanophobia, a specific phobia, is the fear of any medical procedures that involve an injection or a hypodermic needle. It is common for someone with a fear of needles to also have a fear of blood as they associate the two together. The fear intensifies when the person sees blood being drawn. Someone with trypanophobia will avoid medical procedures that involve needles, including blood tests, vaccines and surgeries. The fear becomes so overwhelming that their health maybe in jeopardy because of missed medical appointments.
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Fear of Aging
Someone with gerascophobia has an extreme fear of aging or growing old. Gerascophobia is a specific phobia. The individual may be physically healthy, however, they have a fear of losing their looks, or of becoming inactive following retirement, and they are anxious about the possible loss of independence, onset of disease and/or possible confinement in a nursing home.
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Fear of the Dark
Having a fear of the dark is the common phobia known as achluophobia and it typically affects children, although adults may also be affected. The fear is not about the actual darkness, but instead the imagined and possible dangers that could be 'lurking' in the dark.
Someone with a fear of the dark will go to extreme measures to avoid darkness and will often lay awake throughout the night, anticipating that something may harm them. The fear is so acute the person can only sleep during daylight which for an adult often interferes with family and social life and employment.
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Fear of Snakes
Ophidiophobia, a specific phobia, is the abnormal fear of snakes and is sometimes referred to as herpetophobia which is the fear of reptiles. Someone with an extreme fear of snakes may be so fearful, they avoid any situation where a snake may be present. For example, when visiting a zoo the person will completely avoid the entire area where snakes are housed. The fear is so overwhelming that when the person sees a picture of a snake, it may bring on a full blown panic attack.
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The Fear of Germs
An extreme fear of germs and/or contamination is known as mysophobia. Someone who is fearful of germs will often be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. They will continuously wash their hands, frequently to the point of bleeding. The fear of germs or coming in contact with a form of contamination is so overwhelming the person will avoid touching anything that may contain germs. This includes other people, animals and objects. For example, they will not shake hands, hug someone, eat foods they have not prepared themselves or touch something as simple as a light switch, for fear of being contaminated.
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Fear of Being Evaluated By Others
Social phobias are also referred to as social anxiety disorder, social anxiety and/or specific social phobia. A specific social phobia is when someone has an overwhelming fear of events such as speaking in public. The fear of being judged by others is so great that they will avoid all public interactions and may have a panic attack at the mere thought of making a mistake around other people.
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At Health: Phobias, What is a Phobia? http://www.athealth.com/Consumer/disorders/Phobias.html
Medicine Net: Phobias http://www.medicinenet.com/phobias/article.htm
Mayo Clinic: Phobias http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phobias/DS00272