for better mental health

Phobias

Explains phobias, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

What are the symptoms?

Phobias can feel different for different people and the symptoms can vary in severity. Symptoms involve experiencing intense fear and anxiety when faced with the situation or object that you are afraid of. If your phobia is severe, even thinking about the situation or object can trigger these symptoms.

Common symptoms of a phobia

Physical symptoms

  • 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

  • feeling out of touch with reality or detached from your body
  • a fear of fainting
  • a fear of losing control
  • a fear of dying

If these symptoms are very intense, they could trigger a panic attack. (See anxiety and panic attacks for more information.)

Experiencing this type of acute fear is extremely unpleasant and can be very frightening. It may make you feel stressed, out of control and overwhelmed. It may also lead to feelings of embarrassment, anxiety or depression.

As a result, many people with phobias avoid situations where they might have to face their fear. While this can be an effective strategy to start with, avoiding your fears can sometimes cause them to become worse, and can start to have a significant impact on how you live your daily life.

Photo of Vix smiling

Living with my phobia of bananas

"I know bananas can’t hurt me but for some reason I am full of fear whenever I see or smell them."

This information was published in March 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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