A phobia is an irrational fear of an object or situation that the sufferer will try to avoid.
Phobias vary in severity; they may cause mild anxiety without significantly disrupting the sufferer's life or induce full-blown panic attacks and significantly degrade the sufferer's quality of life. In extreme cases, for example, sufferers become housebound.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), most phobias are classified into three categories:
- Social phobia
Fear of other people or social situations such as performance anxiety or fears of embarrassment by scrutiny of others. Overcoming social phobia is often very difficult without the help of therapy or support groups.
- Specific phobias
Fear of a specific object or situation such as spiders, snakes, dogs, wind, water, heights, flying, catching a specific illness, etc.
The main features agoraphobia are fears of leaving home and going into public places and wide open spaces and of possible panic attacks that might follow.