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see neurosisneurosis,
in psychiatry, a broad category of psychological disturbance, encompassing various mild forms of mental disorder. Until fairly recently, the term neurosis was broadly employed in contrast with psychosis, which denoted much more severe, debilitating mental disturbances.
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An intense irrational fear that often leads to avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias (or phobic disorders) are common (for example, fear of spiders, or arachnophobia; fear of heights, or acrophobia) and usually begin in childhood or adolescence. Psychiatric nomenclature refers to phobias of specific places, objects, or situations as specific phobias. Fear of public speaking, in very severe cases, is considered a form of social phobia. Social phobias also include other kinds of performance fears (such as playing a musical instrument in front of others; signing a check while observed) and social interactional fears (for example, talking to people in authority; asking someone out for a date; returning items to a store). Individuals who suffer from social phobia often fear a number of social situations. Although loosely regarded as a fear of open spaces, agoraphobia is actually a phobia that results when people experience panic attacks (unexpected, paroxysmal episodes of anxiety and accompanying physical sensations such as racing heart, shortness of breath).

The origin of phobias is varied and incompletely understood. Most individuals with specific phobias have never had anything bad happen to them in the past in relation to the phobia. In a minority of cases, however, some traumatic event occurred that likely led to the phobia. It is probable that some common phobias, such as a fear of snakes or a fear of heights, may actually be instinctual, or inborn. Both social phobia and agoraphobia run in families, suggesting that heredity plays a role. However, it is also possible that some phobias are passed on through learning and modeling.

Phobias occur in over 10% of the general population. Social phobia may be the most common kind, affecting approximately 7% of individuals. When persons encounter the phobic situation or phobic object, they typically experience a phobic reaction consisting of extreme fearfulness, physical symptoms (such as racing heart, shaking, hot or cold flashes, or nausea), and cognitive symptoms (particularly thoughts such as “I'm going to die” or “I'm going to make a fool of myself”). These usually subside quickly when the individual is removed from the situation. The tremendous relief that escape from the phobic situation provides is believed to reinforce the phobia and to fortify the individual's tendency to avoid the situation in the future.

Many phobias can be treated by exposure therapy: the individual is gradually encouraged to approach the feared object and to successively spend longer periods of time in proximity to it. Cognitive therapy is also used (often in conjunction with exposure therapy) to treat phobias. It involves helping individuals to recognize that their beliefs and thoughts can have a profound effect on their anxiety, that the outcome they fear will not necessarily occur, and that they have more control over the situation than they realize.

Medications are sometimes used to augment cognitive and exposure therapies. For example, beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol, lower heart rate and reduce tremulousness, and lead to reduced anxiety. Certain kinds of antidepressants and anxiolytic medications are often helpful. It is not entirely clear how these medications exert their antiphobic effects, although it is believed that they affect levels of neurotransmitters in regions of the brain that are thought to be important in mediating emotions such as fear.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A disproportionate, obsessive, persistent, and unrealistic fear of an external situation or object, symbolically taking the place of an internal unconscious conflict.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Psychiatry an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Needle phobic patients should be encouraged to take their time getting up, and to stand up very slowly."
About one-fifth of accident survivors develop acute stress reaction; out of this subgroup, 10% go on to develop a mood disorder, 20% develop phobic travel anxiety, and 11% develop post-traumatic stress disorder (Mayou et al., 1997).
Performing the tasks that will assist social phobic students while conducting a class is an example of multi-tasking at its best and requires an additional level of consciousness.
If a phobic can break that link, the phobia can be cured.
Contact National Phobic Society on 0870-770-0456 or visit, or the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (NHS or private) on 01254-875277 or visit www.babcp.
Social phobia is a prevalent, often disabling condition.[1-7] Several recent community surveys have placed the one-year prevalence of social phobia in the range of 2% to 7% of adults, with lifetime prevalence as high as 13.0%.[3, 4, 6] In these surveys, social phobics were noted to have rarely received mental health care interventions for their disorder.[3,4] This raises the question of how often social phobics are encountered in the general medical health care system.
In addition, participants were administered a questionnaire whose results indicated whether the participant could be classified as phobic and, if this was the case, allowed also the duration and types of phobic experience to be assessed.
Arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, is the most common phobia in this country according to The National Phobics Society.
Low blood sugar can make you more prone to a panic attack," warns Nicky Lidbetter from the National Phobics Society.
For information about phobias and the treatment available, contact the National Phobics Society on 0870 770 0456 (www.
She lurches from charmers to commitment phobics, from sexy young French men to drugs, until she learns what really makes romance, what happiness is and the unlikely places where it can be found.
ATLANTA -- Retinal scan readings confirm that social phobics avoid eye contact--a behavior that has been clinically observed but never empirically verified-- Kaye Horley reported at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.