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All people have fears or situations they would rather avoid. Some people are frightened by job interviews. Others are uncomfortable to be home alone at night. Most people manage to control their fears and go about their normal activities. Sometimes they develop coping strategies such as turning on the television or radio to keep them company in an empty house. Other times they merely grit their teeth and go forward.
But some people's lives are consumed by inappropriate and involuntary fears. Normal coping mechanisms don't work, and the need to avoid the objects or situations that cause anxiety can be so intense that normal living becomes impossible. These people are suffering from a phobia.
Individuals with phobias recognize that their fears are unreasonable, but they are unable to control them. Phobias are serious, real medical disorders. They are thought to be caused by a combination of biological factors and life events, much in the way other disorders (such as diabetes or heart disease) are influenced by a person's genes and lifestyle. Phobias are divided into three broad categories -- specific phobia (which used to be called simple or single phobia), social phobia, and agoraphobia depending on what triggers the fear and how the individual reacts to the dreaded object or situation.
Individuals with phobias recognize that their fears are unreasonable, but they are unable to control them. They experience extreme anxiety and panic when exposed to certain objects or situations that they logically know are not dangerous.
People with specific phobia suffer from an illogical but real and intense fear of a certain object, such as dogs or insects, or a situation, such as flying or exposure to deep water. Other typical specific phobias include:
aerophobia - fear of flying
claustrophobia - fear of closed spaces
acrophobia - fear of heights
hemophobia - fear of blood
social phobia - fear of being judged by others and publicly behaving in a way that could lead to embarrassment or ridicule.
agoraphobia - fear of open spaces
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