As an irrational, intense aversion toward an object, situation, sensation, experience, thought, or event, phobias and phobic disorders are one of the more recognisable mental health difficulties. However, for a person to be diagnosed with a phobic disorder, there are two important criteria to remember:
First, if the supposed ‘phobic aversion’ is shared by the individual’s community, with an entire group of unrelated people reacting toward a stimulus with phobia-like symptoms, then a single individual cannot be diagnosed with a phobic disorder. No matter how strange or disproportionate their reactions may be to a community outsider, this still is not a reflection of a mental health disorder.
Secondly, an individual’s response toward a phobic item is usually disproportionate from its actual danger. Many people can be scared of spiders, heights, or snakes, but a phobic reaction is extreme, and this aversion can often impact day-to-day functioning. The phobia, once formed, cannot be easily shaken off and mostly remains with the individual for a long time.
While most phobic individuals are aware of their disorder and the ‘irrationality’ of their aversion, they often cannot express what exactly makes their phobia so overwhelmingly horrifying and are unable to control the phobic response that is triggered.
Most specific phobias occur within gender at a fairly equal incidence and onset may occur for a variety of reasons, at a range of ages. The main exceptions are animal phobias, which are most often found in women and typically begin in early childhood, similar to blood-related phobias. The other main type of phobic disorder is the social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder. Social phobias are related to an extreme aversion to external evaluation, criticism, embarrassment, and humiliation. Any way in which they might become the recipient of a socially set punishment through the reactions of other people, they’ll try to avoid that possibility to an extreme degree.