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Find information on phobias, including symptoms, causes and how to access treatment and support. Get tips for helping yourself, plus guidance for friends and family.

Common symptoms of phobias

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Phobias can feel different for everyone. The symptoms of phobias can also vary in severity.

Generally, the symptoms involve experiencing intense fear and anxiety. This occurs in face of the situation or object you're afraid of. If your phobia is severe, even thinking about it can trigger symptoms.

Below you will find a list of some common symptoms of phobias.

Physical symptoms of phobias

The physical symptoms you can experience may include:

  • feeling unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • feeling like you are choking
  • a pounding heart, palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • chest pain or tightness in the chest
  • sweating
  • hot or cold flushes
  • shortness of breath or a smothering sensation
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • trembling or shaking.

Psychological symptoms of phobias

The psychological symptoms can vary. Some experiences may include:

  • a fear of fainting
  • a fear of losing control
  • a fear of dying
  • feeling out of touch with reality, or detached from your body – known as dissociation.

If your symptoms are very intense, they could trigger a panic attack. See our pages on anxiety and panic attacks for more information.

This type of acute fear can feel extremely unpleasant and very frightening. It may lead to feelings of:

As a result, many people with phobias avoid situations which might trigger their phobia.

This solution might feel effective at first. But avoiding phobias can sometimes cause them to become worse. This may start to have a significant impact on how you live your daily life.

I am disabled and have had medical treatments my entire life. When I was little, I used to fight people trying to take my blood, so I would have to be held down. The people raising me were completely unsympathetic to my feelings. All of this compounded to create the intense fear I experience when I’m getting my blood drawn today.

This information was published in February 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

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